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Bitcoin traders shrug off 'halving' to focus on broader market risks

April 22, 2024 11:08 AM

By Elizabeth Howcroft

LONDON (Reuters) - Bitcoin's so-called halving event has had little impact on its price so far, with industry insiders on Monday saying the cryptocurrency's fortunes were more closely tied to broader financial market sentiment and geopolitics.

Bitcoin enthusiasts had eagerly waited for the "halving" - a change to the cryptocurrency's underlying technology that happened around 0014 GMT on Saturday and is designed to cut the rate at which new bitcoins are created.

The change takes place every four years and some crypto fans pointed to price gains in the aftermath of previous halvings as a sign that bitcoin would rally again.

By 1415 GMT on Monday, there was little discernible impact, with bitcoin trading at $66,300. It gained 1.2% last week and was up 3.4% on Monday, but has mostly struggled for direction since hitting an all-time high of $73,794 last month.

"The geopolitical events unfolding at the minute are having a larger impact than any impact from the halving. So that’d be the perceived easing of tensions between Iran and Israel," said Mick Roche, senior trader at Standard Chartered's crypto arm, Zodia Markets.

World stocks recovered some losses on Monday as investors reversed some defensive positions they had taken on fears of a wider Middle East conflict.

Eric Demuth, CEO of Austrian cryptocurrency broker Bitpanda, said bitcoin was increasingly dependent on wider market sentiment and there was no clear pattern of retail trading activity around the halving.

"Crypto is so similar to stocks already. The same people that are trading stocks and tech stocks are also into crypto," he said.

Excitement around U.S. regulatory approval for spot bitcoin exchange-traded funds (ETFs) helped bitcoin recover last year from a series of crashes in 2022.

For bitcoin, the focus is now on "institutionalisation", said Ben Laidler, global markets strategist at eToro.

Bitcoin is dominated by retail investors, Laidler said, but he expects regulatory changes in future could make it easier for companies, banks and central banks to own bitcoin.

Cryptocurrencies remain a niche asset class, with their combined value around $2.5 trillion, according to market tracker CoinGecko.

Regulators warn they are speculative, risky and have limited real-world uses.

Crypto markets are also waiting to see if the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission will approve spot ETFs for the second-biggest cryptocurrency, ether, but Demuth and Roche said hopes that this could happen in May were fading.

(Reporting by Elizabeth Howcroft; Editing by Tommy Reggiori Wilkes and Mark Potter)

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