Bitcoin’s correlation with tech breaks down amid supply ‘overhang’

Matthew Hougan, chief investment officer at Bitwise Asset Management, joins BNN Bloomberg to discuss the latest in cryptocurrency.

(Bloomberg) -- After trading almost in tandem in recent months, Bitcoin’s correlation with surging U.S. equities is collapsing under the weight of too much supply and not enough demand for the cryptocurrency.

The 90-day-correlation coefficient of Bitcoin and the tech-dominant Nasdaq 100 index dropped to 0.21 on Tuesday, the lowest level since the start of May. It has declined by more than 50% in the two months. A coefficient of 1 means the assets are moving in lockstep, while minus-1 would show they’re moving in opposite directions.

“Bitcoin is experiencing overhang from idiosyncratic supply events — including spot sales from seized coins held by the German and U.S. governments and the distributions from the Mt. Gox estate,” said Joshua Lim, co-founder of trading firm Arbelos Markets. “This has put a cap on upside even while other risk assets trade at all-time highs.”

Bitcoin’s decline from its March record accelerated last week after Mt. Gox’s administrators started the process of returning about US$8 billion worth of the token to creditors. At the same time, German police started selling some of the 50,000 Bitcoin it had seized earlier from a piracy website.

“Excess token supply is expected to reach centralized exchanges in the next few days, likely putting pressure on prices,” said Manuel Villegas, Next Generation research analyst at Julius Baer. “The looming supply overhang has been the main factor affecting confidence.”

Bitcoin miners, meanwhile, are under pressure to unload tokens to cope with evaporating profitability.

The operators of the power-hungry computers that underpin the Bitcoin blockchain are continuing to absorb the financial hit of April’s so-called halving, which curbed the new tokens they receive for the work they do. One response from these Bitcoin miners is to sell some of their inventory of tokens.

“Bitcoin miners have a problem when prices drop, as their cost base is fiat-based; the average all-in-all cost of production for Bitcoin miners, according to our estimates, is close to $54,500,” Villegas said. “When prices drop significantly below this threshold, miners might need to liquidate some of their token inventories to cover their fiat-based costs.”

Bitcoin was little changed on Tuesday at around $57,070, down about 22% from an all-time high of $73,798 reached in March.

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