A number of algorithm-based stablecoins have already failed; bitcoin and other cryptos see deep red.

Good morning. Here’s what’s happening:

Prices: Bitcoin hits its lowest point since December 2020 amid UST's implosion.

Insights: Algo stablecoins may not be such a great idea.

Technician's take: BTC is deeply oversold, but upside appears limited.

Prices

Bitcoin (BTC): $28,550 -8.1%

Ether (ETH): $2,050 -12.8%

Biggest Gainers

There are no gainers in CoinDesk 20 today.

Biggest Losers

Asset Ticker Returns DACS Sector
Internet Computer ICP −30.9% Computing
Polygon MATIC −28.0% Smart Contract Platform
Solana SOL −27.5% Smart Contract Platform

Cryptos tumble amid LUNA implosion

Ouch.

What else was there to say about Wednesday trading in crypto markets?

Bitcoin fell to $27,700 at Marketsone point to a new 16-month low before regaining some ground, but it was still part of a mass sell-off of digital assets triggered by terraUSD (UST) stablecoin implosion against its 1:1 dollar peg.

"It is a very nervous time in crypto markets following the collapse of the controversial stablecoin UST and as the majority of institutional crypto investors that invested last year are now losing money," Oanda Americas Senior Market Analyst Edward Moya wrote.

Terra blockchain LUNA token token, which was created as a buffer against the volatility of UST stablecoin plunged 96% at one point after the Luna Foundation Guard, the non-profit established to support the Terra network, moved its reserves to bitcoin exchanges to defend the dollar peg. UST dropped as low as 23 cents before recovering to 77 cents later in the day. Stable it wasn't.

Bitcoin, the largest cryptocurrency by market capitalization, was recently trading at $28,500, down about 7%, although it fared better than most other major cryptos, underscoring its status as a less risky option during tumultuous times for the wider digital assets market. Ether, the second-largest crypto by market cap, was also off, declining approximately 11% over the same period, to roughly $2,050.

The charts were even darker red and included AVAX, SOL and SAND, which recently dropped 36%, 33% and 31%, respectively. Popular meme coins SHIB and DOGE tumbled about 29% and 26%, respectively.

Equity markets shared in the misery as investors digested the latest U.S. news on inflation, which ticked slight lower in April, but remained at four-decade highs. The prices for groceries and other consumer goods, airline travel and service industries spiked amid rising energy costs and supply chain slowdowns exacerbated by Russia's unprovoked attack on Ukraine.

The tech-focused Nasdaq sank over 3% and the S&P 500 and Dow Jones Industrial Average each dropped over 1%. Meanwhile, gold, the traditional safe haven against risk, increased about 1%.

"Today’s market reaction to the inflation report will make it hard to attract any investor who is still on the sidelines," Moya wrote. "The risks on Wall Street are growing and now include a Fed policy mistake, liquidity and credit risks, and growth concerns."

He added that bitcoin "remains very vulnerable to further selling pressure and could see further technical selling if the $28,500 level breaks."

S&P 500: 3,935 -1.6%

DJIA: 31,834 -1%

Nasdaq: 11,364 -3.1%

Gold: $1,852 +1%

Insights

Algorithmic stablecoins may not be such a great idea

LUNA and UST, the token and stablecoin of Singapore-based Terraform Labs, continued spiraling as UST’s key design imploded and trader sentiment around LUNA plummeted.

The impact wasn’t limited to niche regions of the internet either, as suicide helplines trended on community forums centered on Terra.

UST, a stablecoin pegged to U.S. dollars, fell to as low as 28 cents on Wednesday despite being backed by the likes of big-name crypto venture funds such as Three Arrows Capital and the Luna Foundation Guard (LFG).

The de-pegging, however, was unsurprising. Several algorithmic stablecoins have mostly failed over the past two years and none have thrived. been issued in the past two years. Most have failed, some have survived and none have thrived.

Examples include Iron Finance and its TITAN tokens, Basis Cash, Empty Set Dollar, Dynamic Set Dollar and many more. These equated to millions of dollars in losses for investors.

Algorithmic stablecoins like UST are backed by a basket of assets, such as LUNA and bitcoin (BTC), without depending on any centralized third party to hold those assets. This is unlike tether and USD coin, whose parent firms claim to hold actual dollars in back accounts to sufficiently back the values of USDT and USDC, respectively.

Tokens such as UST depend on LUNA to maintain a price of $1 using a set of on-chain mint and burn mechanics. Traders can always swap $1 worth of UST for $1 worth of LUNA and vice versa – with LUNA’s growing value serving as a shock absorber for UST's price.

However, the mechanism of algorithmically-governed stablecoins like UST makes them susceptible to the colloquial bank run.

As an example, consider Terra’s LUNA and UST tokens. A sudden fall in LUNA prices affects UST's entire stabilizing mechanism because users can no longer redeem their $1 of UST for $1 of LUNA. This creates a downward spiral as falling UST prices affect sentiment around LUNA, and a LUNA sell-off leads to lower UST prices.

A case in point is Wednesday’s price action. LUNA fell below $6 – a 96% drop since Tuesday – while UST slumped to 28 cents.

Analysts and market observers say algorithmic stablecoins remain a cause for concern now.

“Algorithmic stablecoins we see on the market today are innately brittle due to their design,” explained Kate Kurbanova, cofounder of risk management platform Apostro, in a Telegram chat. “They try to hold the peg by using different algorithms, market incentives, and so on – but nevertheless, they are highly vulnerable and rely on the market and reference asset price.”

“However, such experiments work as there is a demand for stablecoins – especially when it comes to juicy APY,” Kurbanova added, reasoning their popularity.

The takeaway? Retail participants should perhaps stay away from algorithmic stablecoins that aren’t ready for prime time just yet, as the many failed experiments (and dollar losses) prove. It’s not like the crypto market isn’t enough of a risky asset class already.

Technician's take

Bitcoin daily chart shows support/resistance, with RSI on bottom. (Damanick Dantes/CoinDesk, TradingView)

Bitcoin (BTC) is down by 6% over the past 24 hours and is trading at the bottom of a year-long price range. The cryptocurrency could find support between $27,000 and $30,000, although negative momentum signals point to additional breakdowns.

The relative strength index (RSI) on the daily chart is deeply oversold, similar to what occurred on Jan. 24 of this year and May 20 of last year. Still, in a downtrend, oversold conditions can persist for a few weeks before an upswing in price occurs.

On the weekly chart, the RSI is the most oversold since March 2020, which preceded a strong rally. This time, however, long-term momentum has deteriorated, suggesting limited upside beyond the upper $40,000-$45,000 resistance zone.

For now, a relief rally could be brief, especially given the strong break below $35,000 last week.

Important events

9 a.m. HKT/SGT(1 a.m. UTC): Australia consumer inflation expectations (May)

1 p.m. HKT/SGT(5 a.m. UTC): Japan eco watchers survey current/outlook (April)

2 p.m. HKT/SGT(6 a.m. UTC): UK trade balance (March)

All writers’ opinions are their own and do not constitute financial advice in any way whatsoever. Nothing published by CoinDesk constitutes an investment recommendation, nor should any data or Content published by CoinDesk be relied upon for any investment activities. CoinDesk strongly recommends that you perform your own independent research and/or speak with a qualified investment professional before making any financial decisions.

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