Despite the significant trading volumes generated by spot Bitcoin exchange-traded Funds (ETFs), the cryptocurrency market struggles with liquidity issues. The current state of Bitcoin’s market depth, a key liquidity indicator, suggests that the capacity for executing large transactions without major price impacts remains limited. A substantial number of buy and sell orders near the current price levels does not necessarily translate to effective liquidity.
This situation is partly attributed to the lingering effects of the ‘Alameda gap’, a term coined to describe the gap left by significant market players scaling back their involvement in cryptocurrency trading. Entities like Jane Street Group and Jump Crypto, once key stabilizers in the market, have notably reduced their cryptocurrency trading activities. This withdrawal has led to increased price volatility, as observed during the launch of the Bitcoin ETFs, where Bitcoin experienced price swings as high as 12%.
Impact of major players’ retreat and smaller firms’ limitations
The retreat of large firms from the cryptocurrency market is particularly impactful. These entities previously played a crucial role in stabilizing the market, and their reduced participation has left a noticeable void. In their place, smaller firms have attempted to step in. However, these smaller entities are often constrained by limited financial resources, making them less capable of managing substantial risks during periods of high volatility. This often results in significant liquidations when market fluctuations are pronounced.
The limitations of smaller firms in filling the gap left by larger players are evident in the market’s response to high volatility. Their inability to absorb large trades or provide stability during turbulent market conditions exacerbates the liquidity problem, leading to more pronounced price swings and a less stable trading environment.
Bitcoin ETF trading and market depth disconnect
The introduction of Bitcoin ETFs has not necessarily improved the liquidity situation in the cryptocurrency market. Despite generating substantial trading volume, much ETF-related Bitcoin trading occurs over-the-counter (OTC). These transactions do not directly contribute to the market’s depth or overall liquidity.
A notable example is the conversion of the Grayscale Bitcoin Trust into an ETF, which resulted in approximately $4 billion in redemptions. This conversion highlighted a disconnect between the trading volume of equity shares and the actual liquidity in the cryptocurrency market. GBTC shares often trade to their underlying assets at a discount, further illustrating this disconnect. Therefore, the influx of trading activity associated with the new Bitcoin ETFs has not directly translated into enhanced liquidity for Bitcoin itself.