Bitcoin (BTC) rebounded on Monday, crossing the $43,000 mark as market participants anticipated initiating a rate-cutting cycle by the U.S. Federal Reserve. The world’s largest cryptocurrency by market capitalization rose by over 0.5% in the past 24 hours, reaching $43,100 by 7:30 a.m. ET.
Fed funds futures signal rate-cutting expectations
Market expectations for a Federal Reserve rate cut in May are primarily based on what is currently priced into Fed funds futures contracts. These contracts reflect the market’s outlook for future interest rates and are used by investors to express opinions on interest rate direction and manage interest rate risk in their portfolios.
According to ETC Group Head of Research André Dragosch, the market has effectively ruled out the possibility of a rate cut in March. This aligns with the recent statement by Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell, who stated that a rate cut in March is “not likely” to happen.
Powell emphasized the Fed’s desire to be more confident that inflation is moving down to the target of 2%, and this confidence is not expected to be reached in time for the March meeting.
Despite Powell’s comments, Dragosch suggests that a reversal in monetary policy could still occur if systemic risks within the banking system increase or the unemployment rate significantly rises.
Dragosch explained, “The longer the Fed keeps rates at current levels, the more likely we will see a kind of ‘accident’ or credit event within the regional banking system, especially among those institutions with significant exposure to U.S. commercial real estate.”
Dragosch highlighted recent stress in bank stocks like New York Community Bank as a sign of potential vulnerabilities. He anticipates that bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies may initially experience a sell-off in response to a potential delay in the rate cut until May, particularly if global growth expectations decline amid the possibility of a U.S. recession.
Impact of a delayed rate cut on cryptocurrencies
While a delayed rate cut might trigger a short-term sell-off in cryptocurrencies, Dragosch believes it could also have a positive second-order effect. He suggests that a reversal in monetary policy, combined with a weakening U.S. dollar, could provide a significant tailwind for cryptocurrencies like bitcoin.
Mixed signals in U.S. employment data
Friday’s U.S. employment situation summary delivered mixed signals about the nation’s economy. The report showed the U.S. economy adding an impressive 353,000 jobs, surpassing consensus expectations of 185,000.
However, Dragosch pointed out that a closer examination of the data reveals concerning indicators, such as a decline in average hours worked, typically associated with a recession.
Furthermore, high-frequency indicators like Google search queries for ‘filing for unemployment’ in the U.S. have been surging, implying an acceleration of weakness in the labor market.