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Jun 26, 2019

Bitcoin's monster rally exerts pain as record shorts get burned

Bitcoin tops US$12,000 level despite skeptics

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The frenzied relationship between Bitcoin and its skeptics is reaching a boiling point.

Speculators who bought futures contracts to bet against the largest digital currency are being forced to close out positions by the parabolic rally of the past two months that has more than doubled the price. The squeeze is likely to continue with so-called short interest still lingering at an all-time high.

“Higher prices are bringing in more money, more hedging, greater shorts,” said Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Mike McGlone. “Elevated shorts like this are indicative of a bid below the market more likely to go higher.”

Bets on gains appeared to peak toward the end of last year and has been steadily decreasing over the course of the first quarter as open interest -- or the amount of risk held -- in futures reached the highest since the contracts first began trading in late 2017. The falling net long amount appears to be fueled by an increasing amount of short futures positions, currently sitting at a record high of 4,431 contracts.

Although speculators remain net long Bitcoin futures, the recent rise in new short positions -- which has pushed higher open interest -- may have created a fresh wave of short covering demand.

“It’s a clear sign that the price was going to knock them out,” said Naeem Aslam, chief market analyst at Think Markets UK in London. “Now the momentum is immensely strong and we do think that the price is highly likely to touch the level of $15,000 in the next couple of weeks.”

Bitcoin’s frenzied run is starting to look more like it did at the height of crypto mania in 2017. It rose as much as 14 per cent on Wednesday, breaching above US$12,900 for the first time since January 2018. Alternative coins, including Ether and Litecoin, also gained, and the Bloomberg Galaxy Crypto Index jumped as much as 10.3 per cent.

The industry’s undergoing a second renaissance as mainstream institutions more widely embrace cryptocurrencies and its underlying blockchain technology. News that Facebook Inc. plans to unveil its own cryptocurrency in conjunction with a broad group of partners including Visa Inc. and Uber Technologies Inc. sent prices higher, as did reports that Bitmain Technologies Ltd., the world’s biggest producer of cryptocurrency mining chips, is preparing an initial public offering.

“Bitcoin is very much in the driver’s seat of the crypto market right now,” wrote Mati Greenspan, senior market analyst at trading platform eToro, in a recent note. “After the prolonged crypto winter that was 2018, this year has seen the crypto market as the best performing asset class of 2019 by far, and that was just Spring.”

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