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Is Bitcoin Really Decoupling From Stocks? Experts Weigh-In

1 Oct, 20224 min readBitcoin
Is Bitcoin Really Decoupling From Stocks? Experts Weigh-In

There’s a wry humor in the fact that Bitcoin has at times been very closely correlated with traditional markets.

Bitcoiners generally prefer that BTC not have a high correlation with traditional assets, like stocks and bonds. After all, one of the core tenets of the world’s largest cryptocurrency by market capitalization—$379 billion as of this writing, according to CoinGecko—is that it bypasses traditional finance.

That’s why self-avowed Bitcoin fans, like Gemini co-founder Cameron Winklevoss, take note when it seems that BTC has stopped following stocks and bonds.

“Bitcoin has been remarkably resilient the past few weeks despite the stock market losing trillions in value,” he tweeted earlier this week. “No idea if this is the bottom but there’s been a curious decoupling.”

Bitcoin has been remarkably resilient the past few weeks despite the stock market losing trillions in value. No idea if this is the bottom but there's been a curious decoupling. Are folks starting to re-examine the "disaster insurance" thesis?— Cameron Winklevoss (@cameron) September 27, 2022

It’s true that Bitcoin has recently outperformed stock market indices, but analysts say there’s spurious evidence that a true decoupling has occurred.

Compared to last week, Bitcoin has risen 3% while the Nasdaq 100 and S&P 500 each lost 1%. In fact, that holds true going back as far as 90 days, according to data from blockchain analytics firm IntoTheBlock. Compared to three months ago, Bitcoin has gained 1% while the Nasdaq 100 lost 3% and the S&P 500 lost 4%.

Any further than that involves comparing the current market slump to a time before the Federal Reserve’s Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) implemented historically high interest rate hikes three times in a row, pushing borrowing rates the highest they’ve been since 2008.

Blockchain data platform IntoTheBlock’s own correlation matrix shows Bitcoin is still pretty closely correlated with the Nasdaq 100 and the S&P 500—both at 0.7.

Calculating a correlation produces a value between -1, which would mean the two things being compared always move in opposite directions, or 1, which would mean that they always move in the same direction.

During the first week of September the correlation between Bitcoin and the two stock indices was much higher, at 0.9.

“Correlations with stocks have indeed dropped over the past few weeks, but still remain quite high,” Lucas Outumuro, director of research at IntoTheBlock, told Decrypt.

Even if the correlation has weakened over the past month, Outumuro said there’s reason to believe it could rise again, citing “risks of liquidity decreasing due to interest rate hikes and [quantitative easing] continue to put pressure on risk assets, including crypto.”

The pseudonymous Twitter user “Unusual_Whales,” who runs the options data platform by the same name, also told Decrypt that it’s too early to say if Bitcoin price movements have stopped mirroring traditional markets.

“It may be a lead-lag effect,” they said. “Hard to say given that the market itself shifted so much this week.”

That shift came from the Bank of England announcing Wednesday that it had started aggressively buying bonds to stabilize markets after the government’s economic plans sent interest rates soaring and the British pound to lows not seen since the 80s.

“The correlation between BTC and the S&P500 (SPY) has shot up to all-time highs since March 2022 as both markets have been affected by the actions of the FED and other macro events,” Nate Maddrey, who leads research at Coin Metrics, told Decrypt in an email.

“Historically, BTC has not been highly correlated with the stock market, so it’s always possible that the tides are starting to turn back towards lower correlation. But at this point, the data does not show significant detachment.”

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