New York: Bitcoin has yet to recover from its unexplained weekend swoon, and now the investing public is on edge about the notoriously volatile token's next move. Enter the chart watchers.
Noting that "a chart is a chart is a chart," Tallbacken Capital Advisors's Michael Purves - weighing in on crypto for virtually the first time - sent a note Wednesday with a technical analysis of the coin's trading patterns. Bitcoin's recent highs weren't confirmed by its relative strength index, among other things, and its upward momentum is fading, he said.
"From purely a technical perspective, the bullish case looks highly challenged here in the near term," after its recent rally, wrote Purves, chief executive officer at the firm.
Purves's decision to comment is the latest sign that Bitcoin has become too big for Wall Street to ignore. As more firms allow customers to dabble in the asset and more institutional money is tied to its performance, chart watchers are capitulating and now lending their expertise to the growing batch of analysis.
Earlier, JPMorgan Chase & Co. strategists led by Nikolaos Panigirtzoglou noted that the last few times they witnessed such negative price action in Bitcoin, buyers returned in time to prevent deeper slumps. This time, they're worried.
If the largest cryptocurrency isn't able to break back above $60,000 soon, momentum signals will collapse, the strategists wrote in a note Tuesday. It's likely traders including Commodity Trading Advisers (CTAs) and crypto funds were at least partly behind the buildup of long Bitcoin futures in recent weeks, as well as the unwind in past days, they said.
"Over the past few days Bitcoin futures markets experienced a steep liquidation in a similar fashion to the middle of last February, middle of last January or the end of last November," the strategists said. "Momentum signals will naturally decay from here for several months, given their still elevated level."
In those three previous instances, the overall flow impulse was strong enough to allow Bitcoin to quickly break out above the key thresholds, yielding further buildups in position by momentum traders, JPMorgan noted.
"Whether we see a repeat of those previous episodes in the current conjuncture remains to be seen," the strategists said. The likelihood it will happen again seems lower because momentum decay seems more advanced and thus more difficult to reverse, they added. Flows into Bitcoin funds also appear weak, they said.
Bitcoin rose as high as $64,870 around the time of the Nasdaq listing of Coinbase Global Inc., but has retreated back to $55,000. The cryptocurrency is still up about 90% year-to-date.
The coin, down five of the last six sessions, is struggling to overtake its 50-day moving average around $56,810. For many chartists, that's a bearish indicator since it tends to determine price momentum trends. Should Bitcoin be unable to breach its short-term trend line, it could move lower and test the $50,000 level, about a 10% decline from where it's currently trading. The next area of support would be its 100-day moving average around $49,208. That would signify a 11% retreat from Wednesday's trading levels.
Tallbacken's Purves, who says the coin's 2017 breakout and subsequent decline is a useful case study, also points to Bitcoin's daily MACD signal - or the moving average convergence divergence gauge - which has turned bearish in the intermediate-term. And its performance is still correlated to Cathie Wood's uber-popular ARK Innovation ETF.
"Trading Bitcoin on the bullish side right now does not appear to have favorable risk-reward and if you have made profits, it seems like a good time to go to the sidelines for now," Purves wrote.
To be sure, he said, it's difficult to conclude how much further it could decline. Institutional buyers will be key.
"While upside momentum is clearly looking challenged here, it is inconclusive how much downside risk remains," he wrote. "It is entirely possible that Bitcoin could simply consolidate in a range for some time."
Bitcoin fell 3.2% to $54,996 on Wednesday. Smaller and alternative coins that had run up in recent days also suffered declines, with Dogecoin - the poster-child for crypto risk-taking - declining roughly 15% to trade around 31 cents. That's down from a high of 42 cents the day prior, according to CoinMarketCap.com.