Bitcoin (representation image) Photograph:( AFP )
Its bounce came after prominent crypto backers such Ark Invest's Cathie Wood and carmaker Tesla's Elon Musk indicated their support on Wednesday
Bitcoin regained some lost ground to trade near $40,000 on Thursday, a day after a brutal selloff on concerns over tighter regulation in China and unease over the extent of leveraged positions in the cryptocurrency world.
The biggest and most popular cryptocurrency rose 9% to a touch below $40,000, after plunging 14% on Wednesday to its lowest since late January. Smaller rival ether was up 11% at $2,700 at 0829 GMT, after its 28% tumble.
Its bounce came after prominent crypto backers such Ark Invest's Cathie Wood and carmaker Tesla's Elon Musk indicated their support on Wednesday. Wood said in an interview with Bloomberg that she was still sticking to her $500,000 forecast.
Musk reiterated that Tesla was holding on to its bitcoin investments.
"People consider this as a 'buy the dip' moment, and many consider this as 'the last chance to buy bitcoin cheap'," said Ruud Feltkamp, chief executive at crypto trading bot Cryptohopper. "The next few months will show if the bull market will continue or if it's the start of the end of its run."
Wednesday's declines in both digital assets were one of their biggest daily percentage moves in more than a year as investors rushed to exit trades that until recently were outperforming traditional markets such as stocks and bonds.
The latest catalyst was a statement by Chinese financial industry bodies banning the use of cryptocurrencies in payment and settlement, and prohibiting institutions from providing crypto-related products or exchange services between cryptocurrencies and the yuan or foreign currencies.
But bitcoin had already been under pressure for almost a week after a series of tweets from Musk, a major cryptocurrency backer, chiefly his reversal on Tesla accepting bitcoin as payment.
Analysts said the upheaval was far from over.
"It's too early to say if the rebound we’ve seen off the lows in crypto has legs," said Chris Weston, head of research at brokerage Pepperstone in Melbourne.
"I question if we will get a chance to catch our breath or is there more volatility in store?" he said.
Weston pointed to how $9.13 billion of cryptocurrency positions had been liquidated across exchanges over 24 hours, and $532 billion in total volume transacted.
The slide forced some investors to close out leveraged positions in cryptocurrency derivatives, which caused prices to fall further and knocked digital assets down into a lower trading range, traders said.
Coming off a six-fold jump on the back of rising usage in non-fungible tokens on digital art platforms, ether's selloff was far more damaging with the digital currency trading 39% below record highs.
James Quinn, managing director at Q9 Capital, a Hong Kong-based cryptocurrency private wealth manager, said the selling reflected huge crowded positions in ether.
"Sometimes a market event is looking for a cause. I think this is about positioning. Over the long term, maybe it’s positive because a very crowded trade from a lot of new entrants means there are a lot of new entrants," Quinn added.
Still, ether is up more than 270% so far this year and bitcoin's year-to-date gains stand at 37%.
While some retail traders saw missed opportunities in the slide, others saw the rout as a chance to pick up digital assets on the cheap.
Milko Markov, an independent London-based trader, said he had been buying ether.
"Those with a bit more experience in the crypto market know two cardinal rules: don't leverage and dollar cost average," he said. (Graphic: Bitcoin slumped 14% on May 19 - worst selloff since March 2020.