Bitcoin (BTC) is in top form — almost literally — as it heads into a new week less than 15% away from all-time highs.
A classic cocktail of factors has laid the foundation for a fourth-quarter finale, which analysts are now confidently comparing to the bull runs of 2013 and 2017.
Decoupling from macro market movements and the U.S. dollar, Bitcoin is once again looking like the gold alternative that investors want — all while altcoins slip away.
With “Uptober” still only in its second full week, Cointelegraph takes a look at what might lie in store for BTC price action over the coming days.
Altcoins lag ahead of “Bitcoin season”
Things are looking rosy as the week begins for Bitcoin traders — last week’s four-month highs are back and beaten.
With the exception of a curious anomaly on exchange Bitstamp, which saw a momentary wick down to $51,000, a quiet weekend preserved previous gains.
Now seemingly lining up an attack on the final resistance below all-time highs of $64,500, BTC price action is delighting market participants.
There’s a further aspect behind Bitcoin’s strength, however — one that could preserve further upside in the short term.
Altcoins are underperforming, leading to predictions of a “Bitcoin season” before some form of alt season reemerges later on. As Cointelegraph reported, this might not be until 2022.
The situation is particularly visible in Ether (ETH), the largest altcoin by market capitalization, which is now at its lowest against BTC since the start of August.
“ETH/BTC breaking down, while Bitcoin consolidating,” Cointelegraph contributor Michaël van de Poppe summarized on Oct. 10.
“I’m assuming Bitcoin continues, while altcoins are not getting the game yet.”
Van de Poppe nonetheless suggested a contentious cycle price peak for ETH/USD of up to $20,000, with a timeframe of Q1 2022.
“You are here”
It takes a lot to please Bitcoiners when it comes to BTC price action.
As any longtime inhabitant of Crypto Twitter will know, even the most unexpected moves in BTC/USD can only satisfy sentiment for so long before investors demand more.
Last week was no exception: Bitcoin gained $3,000 in minutes, added $5,000 in an hour and hit four-month highs — but days later, commentators complained of being “bored.”
The weight of expectations for Bitcoin in 2021 — the year after the third halving and, therefore, the deadline for a halving cycle price top — is palpable.
How far BTC price could rise is a matter of intense debate, and while some argue that $200,000 or even $300,000 is “programmed,” others are already losing faith, claiming that this cycle cannot be like the last two.
Comparing post-halving years, however, appears to deliver an almost unanimous verdict on Bitcoin’s chances: The main rise to a blow-off top has yet to begin.
September’s dip below $40,000, for example, echoes similar events in 2013 and 2017. These came immediately before liftoff, acting as the “ultimate” bear trap.
Overlaying 2021 price performance onto that from 2017 likewise produces uncanny similarities.
All these findings, from popular trading account TechDev, point to this year’s peak being an order of magnitude above the last. Technical or not, the analyst argues, a six-figure high is all but logically guaranteed.
The similarities, meanwhile, are nothing new, with various sources charting the extent of price conformity to previous post-halving years throughout 2021.
One day, $31 billion settled
A lot of attention has focused on Bitcoin’s network fundamentals throughout the 2020–2021 bull run, but there’s more.
With the hash rate and difficulty all but recovered and nearing all-time highs, fresh data shows that other aspects of Bitcoin are setting records of their own.
This week, it’s about network capacity and scaling — all on-chain, before the Lightning Network is even factored in.
As noted by analyst Kevin Rooke, a single day last week saw Bitcoin handle over $30 billion of value.
“$31 billion. That’s how much value was settled on the Bitcoin blockchain in a single day this week,“ he commented.
“It’s a new all-time high for Bitcoin, and a 40x jump in settlement value since 2020 began.”
The impressive transformation has been accompanied by consistency in cost — Bitcoin transaction fees remain low.
Questions over GBTC
The countdown to a decision on a Bitcoin exchange-traded fund (ETF) continues to excite this week — but is an approval already “priced in?”
While U.S. regulator the Securities and Exchange Commission has pushed back the deadline on deciding the fate of spot-based Bitcoin ETFs to November, this month will see a “yes” or “no” on futures-backed ETF products.
The latter have attracted praise and criticism in equal measure, while a question mark also hangs over the fate of existing institutional Bitcoin instruments, notably market heavyweight the Grayscale Bitcoin Trust (GBTC).
Against a rapidly rising Bitcoin price, GBTC continues to trade at a significant discount to spot price, and that trend has only deepened in recent weeks.
Should ETFs get the go-ahead, analysts argue that ever more capital will flow into them, long ahead of Grayscale itself converting its funds to ETFs.
For macro analyst Lyn Alden Schwartzer, the chances of the so-called “Grayscale premium” returning to even neutral territory seem slim.
“I doubt it, but it’s not impossible for it to happen if there is a huge bitcoin rally and no ETF available at the time,” she responded when asked in a social media discussion over the weekend.
Alden was updating research from last year in which she had highlighted the role of GBTC in Bitcoin price action. The relative absence of the phenomenon now, she said, is conversely positive for the sustainability of BTC price performance.
For those concerned that the return to four-month highs has been accompanied by market instability, think again.
According to the Crypto Fear & Greed Index sentiment gauge, the latest BTC price uptick is firmly rooted in sustainable growth.
This contrasts with the norm — moves to highs, and especially near all-time highs, tend to see the index reach “extreme greed.” This, in turn, suggests an unsustainable market that is easy to destabilize, sparking a price correction.
So far, while near $57,000, the Fear & Greed Index measures only 71/100 — “greed” rather than “extreme greed” and still far from the classic top area of 95/100 and higher.
October has nonetheless produced major changes in sentiment. On Sept. 30, for example — just two weeks ago — the index measured 20/100, or “extreme fear.”