Virtual currencies are retreating so broadly and sharply, it’s testing the durability of the cryptocurrency boom.

The value of more than 7,000 tokens tracked by CoinGecko has shrunk more than US$600 billion in the past week to US$1.9 trillion. Bitcoin, the largest cryptocurrency, slid some 11 per cent Wednesday to break below $40,000 and is now about US$25,000 off its record high set in April.

Multiple factors are at play, ranging from criticism of the environmental impact of Bitcoin’s energy usage by onetime proponent Elon Musk, to the risk of a regulatory squeeze on what some have called the Wild West of investing. Digital tokens have also delivered gains so fat that some traders may have been taking profits.

The US$40,000 mark is a “critical make-or-break pivot level” for Bitcoin and a decline to just below US$30,000 isn’t out of the question, Jeffrey Halley, senior market analyst at Oanda, wrote in a note.

Here’s a snapshot of the crypto retreat:

Tokens Tumble

Early in April, the value of cryptocurrencies breached US$2 trillion for the first time, doubling in about two months on optimism institutional investors were increasingly interested. The current weakness has erased over US$600 billion.

Breaking US$40,000

Bitcoin tested its 200-day moving aerage, and its discount to the 120-day average is the biggest since last year, according to Mike McGlone, a commodity strategist at Bloomberg Intelligence in New York. He sees the Bioin price settling around the 2021 average of approximately US$49,000.


In Bitcoin futures, technicians see a bearish head-and-shoulders pattern, which could point to more weakness ahead.

Bitcoin Versus Gold

The ratio of Bitcoin’s price relative to gold has dropped to the lowest since early February. That’s come amid greater caution about speculative assets as well as the post-pandemic economic recovery. Bitcoin’s proponents argue it’s a modern-day store of value, a claim belied by the token’s volatility.

Ether Trade

After Bitcoin pulled back from a mid-April high, an ongoing rally in Ether -- the second-largest cryptocurrency -- drew attention. But that has also stalled. Chris Weston, head of research at Pepperstone Group Ltd. in Melbourne, wrote in a note Monday that he was closing a short Bitcoin/long Ether trade as the “dust really needs to settle.”

Largest Fund

The Grayscale Bitcoin Trust, the largest Bitcoin fund, is sitting on close to a record discount to net asset value. That gap could disappear if it converts as planned to an exchange-traded fund. However, risks for a wider discount include uncertainty over whether U.S. officials will ever allow Bitcoin ETFs.

--With assistance from Mark Cranfield.