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Ethena’s USDe shows trading disparity after staked token trades lower than $1

In this post:

  • USDe is generating an arbitrage opportunity, though with limited liquidity.
  • Ethena was aggressive in generating 3.6B USDe.
  • Staking earns high APY, but holders of USDe are also promised a second ENA token airdrop.
  • The value of staked USDe depends on bullish attitudes for Ethereum (ETH), and a market downturn can de-peg the stablecoin.

Ethena’s USDe shows an arbitrage opportunity because of a disparity between the staked price and the free token’s trading price. USDe aims to supply Ethena’s DeFi with a more intuitive way of trading and locking in gains. 

The arbitrage between USDe and staked USDe is not causing problems for now, but it has been watched closely. USDe was one of the most actively growing stablecoins in the past few weeks. Ethena was also aggressive in its early token issuance, achieving 2B in supply faster than any stablecoin protocol. 

The main point of Ethena is to source the best yields, mainly through ETH staking, then pay out to its holders. Any shifts in USDe may be worrying. USDe is a fully algorithmic stablecoin, not backed by crypto or other assets. 

The supply of USDe has been growing, but the expansion may signal a imbalance in the Ethena protocol and other liquidity hubs.

At least in the short term, the current disparity in staked USDe is mostly causing buying. The arbitrage opportunity has drawn in traders in the past day. Traders still need to wait a week to withdraw staked USDe. In case of a bank run, Ethena’s smart contracts gradually increase the cooldown period to a maximum of 90 days. This means USDe stakers will have to wait out any market turbulence. 

USDe has limited liquidity for swapping out of staking

There is also limited liquidity available to swap between the two types of USDe, as protocols are becoming depleted. At the same time, a total of $3.65B USDe were created, spreading across multiple other DeFi protocols. Even in the best-case scenario, USDe will create big queues and deplete bridges. Additionally, USDe is becoming more popular and is itself used as a form of collateral. 

USDe is also one of the few stablecoins that rely entirely on decentralized pairs. Most trading happens on Uniswap V3 on Ethereum against Tether (USDT). The algorithmic stablecoin also has around 8% of its volumes on Curve against another stablecoin, FRAX. The main exit ramp from Ethena’s ecosystem is other stablecoins, which are considered more secure and reliable.

USDe is not generated through ENA tokens but relies on hedging Ethereum-based market fluctuations. The goal is to avoid a death spiral in which ENA and the stablecoin it supports lose all value. 

Ethena earns from funding fees on Ethereum perpetual exchanges by taking up short positions. The long bias of most traders means Ethena takes up a relatively slight risk. 

Ethena’s model breaks down under bearish market conditions

A shift to bearish moods for Ethereum would break down Ethena’s basis trade and reduce the backing of the protocol. The recent de-pegging of staked USDe is causing some fears, as it coincides with an ETH market correction down to $3,300. 

Ethena may face the challenge of covering months of negative funding rates for its short positions, which would make all investors abandon the protocol. During this catastrophic event, the long cooldown period for USDe may leave investors stranded. 

The second issue with Ethena is that its users are holding unstaked USDe to incentivize a future airdrop. The second Ethena airdrop is only in the realm of rumors and is buying time for the protocol. The unstaked USDe serves as another layer of security for the protocol.

On-chain research also shows that only a limited cluster of addresses can cash out without a glitch, leaving many investors to take losses. 

During a bull market, Ethena has tailwinds. The current de-pegging of USDe still underlines the potential market strains in case of a liquidation cascade.


Cryptopolitan reporting by Hristina Vasileva

Disclaimer. The information provided is not trading advice. Cryptopolitan.com holds no liability for any investments made based on the information provided on this page. We strongly recommend independent research and/or consultation with a qualified professional before making any investment decisions.

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