Picture used for illustrative purpose.
The price of bitcoin fell below $20,000 for the first time since late 2020 on Saturday, in a fresh sign that the selloff in cryptocurrencies is deepening.
Bitcoin, the most popular cryptocurrency, fell below the psychologically important threshold, dropping as much as 9% to less than $19,000, according to CoinDesk.
The last time bitcoin was at this level was November 2020, when it was on its way up to its all-time high of nearly $69,000.
Bitcoin has now lost more than 70 per cent of its value since reaching that peak.
Ethereum, another widely followed cryptocurrency that’s been sliding in recent weeks, took a similar tumble on Saturday.
It’s the latest sign of turmoil in the cryptocurrency industry amid wider turbulence in financial markets.
Investors are selling off riskier assets because central banks are raising interest rates to combat quickening inflation. A spate of crypto meltdowns have erased tens of billions of dollars of investors’ assets and sparked urgent calls to regulate the freewheeling industry.
Cryptocurrency lending platform Celsius Network said this month it was pausing all withdrawals and transfers, with no sign of when it would give its 1.7 million customers access to their funds.
Stablecoin Terra imploded last month, erasing tens of billions of dollars in a matter of hours.
Bitcoin recovered on last Wednesday after diving to an 18-month low, buoyed by the US Federal Reserve’s tough stance on inflation even in the midst of a market meltdown this week after crypto lender Celsius froze customer withdrawals.
The digital currency sector has been pummelled this week after Celsius froze withdrawals and transfers between accounts, stoking fears of contagion in markets shaken by the demise of the terraUSD and luna tokens last month.
Cryptocurrencies were buoyed as the S&P 500 rallied after a policy announcement by the Fed to raise interest rates, snapping a five-session losing skid.
The Fed raised its target interest rate by three-quarters of a percentage point, its biggest rate hike since 1994.
Crypto funds saw outflows of $102 million last week, according to digital asset manager CoinShares, citing investors’ anticipation of tighter central bank policy.
The value of the global crypto market has tumbled 70% to under $900 billion from a peak of $2.97 trillion in November, CoinMarketCap data shows.
“Some parts of the broader crypto ecosystem are facing a rather harsh reckoning,” said Mikkel Morch, executive director at digital asset hedge fund ARK36. “As the reality of the bear market starts to settle in, the hidden leverages and structural weaknesses of projects that only worked when the prices went up are finally brought to light.”
Celsius has hired restructuring lawyers and is looking for possible financing options from investors, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter. Celsius is also exploring strategic alternatives including a financial restructuring, it said.
Smaller cryptocurrencies, which tend to move in tandem with bitcoin, also fell. Ether, the second largest token, fell to as low $1,013, the lowest since January 2021, and was last down 1.22% at $1,172.76.
The chaos in the crypto market has spread to other companies, with a number of exchanges slashing workforces. Major US exchange Coinbase Global Inc said on last Tuesday it would cut about 1,100 jobs, or 18% of its workforce. Gemini, another U.S. exchange, said this month it would cut 10% of its workforce.
Still, others continue to hire. Binance, the world’s largest exchange, said it was hiring for 2,000 positions, and US exchange Kraken said it had 500 roles to fill.
“Hunker down,” tweeted Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao.
Crypto hedge fund Three Arrows, facing social media chatter it is facing liquidation issues, said it was committed to working things out.
US crypto broker Genesis also sought to ease investor concerns, saying its balance sheet was strong and its lending business continued to meet client demand despite elevated market volatility.