At an already complicated time, bitcoin and other cryptos’ paths grew more complicated the past three days as investors wrestled with the outbreak of war between Israel and the terrorist group Hamas, and other major issues that have affected digital assets in recent weeks, said two market observers.
Bitcoin was recently trading at $27,450, off about 0.6% over the past 24 hours. The largest cryptocurrency by market capitalization fell about 2% over 12 hours on Sunday, a day after Hamas fired thousands of rockets into Israel and massacred civilians, soldiers and police in areas bordering the Gaza Strip. Tensions continued to escalate after Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared war with Hamas and launched airstrikes in Gaza City. The death toll from both sides continues to climb.
“This is undoubtedly the most challenging environment that Bitcoin has faced since its inception,” said Phillip Shoemaker, executive director of Identity.com, a non-profit organization providing decentralized identity verification, wrote in an email to Unchained. “The macroeconomic situation was already incredibly difficult given the turbulence of inflation and the unprecedented rate hikes that followed. And now the geopolitical situation is compounding this, perhaps even more so by way of sending oil prices through the roof in the near term.”
In a comment to Unchained, BitBull Capital CEO Joe DiPasquale compared bitcoin’s initially mild reaction to the environment in February 2022 when Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine did not deeply stir markets. “Most traders are extrapolating from the Ukraine conflict,” DiPasquale wrote, adding: “While crypto has been watched carefully during times of global uncertainty, in this case, Bitcoin has stayed relatively steady, about $27K, for the last several days.”
Ether was recently changing hands at $1,560, off about 1% from Monday, same time. Other major altcoins regained some ground after plunging the previous day to trade in mildly negative territory, with ADA, the token of smart contract platforms Cardano, recently down about 1% and XRP, the native crypto of the XRP Ledger open source, public blockchain down 0.6%.
A day after a U.S. holiday, equities rose with the tech-heavy Nasdaq and S&P 500 rising more than a half-percentage point as markets drew some comfort in the geopolitical chaos abroad from recent, dovish remarks by U.S. central bank officials suggesting the bank’s Federal Open Market Committee, which sets monetary policy, could keep the current rate intact at its next meeting. Analysts have grown increasingly concerned about the impact of rising debt on economies.
Crude oil dipped slightly after jumping on Monday amid growing fears about the effect that the Middle East powder keg might have on energy costs. Yields inched down with the 10-year Treasury earning 4.654%, as investors opted for the security of bonds. Yields have been raging since mid-summer when the 10-year rate was below 3.9%. Traditional safe-haven gold rose 0.5%.
“I am somewhat surprised that Bitcoin hasn’t performed better in recent months,” Identity.com’s Shoemaker wrote. “The same goes for Ethereum, Solana and other major digital asset networks. That said, Bitcoin in particular did shine through somewhat following the banking crisis that kicked off earlier this year. This tells me that hard assets – not just Bitcoin but also gold – are poised to be seen as safer havens in the coming months and years.
A juncture of 4 narratives
But in an analysis to Unchained, Noelle Acheson, former Genesis Head of Market Insights and author of the Crypto Is Macro newsletter wrote that bitcoin as a safe haven in times of crisis was one of four swirling narratives, each of which individually could influence price.
“Right now, bitcoin is at an interesting juncture where all four narratives are getting ready for increased action,” Acheson wrote. “I can’t remember the last time when we had the likely moderation of rates expectations favoring the risk asset narrative, AND possible new use cases favoring the new technology narrative, AND the hard cap favoring the currency debasement hedge narrative, AND geopolitical turmoil favoring the safe haven narrative.”
She added that “the BTC “safe haven” narrative” for long-term investors has never had this level of geopolitical turmoil to test it before, but that “macroeconomic uncertainty and weak market sentiment could keep other narratives front and center in the short-term.”
“The conflict does not just shine a light on the safe haven narrative,” she wrote. “However, one reason rates expectations are moderating is because of the global tension, and the increased likelihood that rate cuts might be needed sooner than expected should things get really hairy in markets. This will also favor bitcoin, but more for bitcoin’s “risk asset” characteristics than its “safe haven” characteristics.