The price of Ether (ETH) declined 9.8% between Feb. 19 and Feb. 25 after the price resistance at $1,725 proved stronger than expected. Still, the correction was insufficient to break the six-week-long ascending channel and did not cause Ether derivatives metrics to turn bearish.
Ether’s price resilience can be partially explained by the operational failure of some of its smart contract blockchain competitors. For instance, Solana (SOL) faced a 20-hour-long outage on Feb. 25, which was only resolved after a network upgrade coordinated by validators. The network restart also involved purging some of the latest slots, although Solana developers said that "no confirmed user transactions were rolled back or impacted."
NEM (XEM) experienced a “chain halt” on Feb. 27 that lasted for 15 hours, causing multiple exchanges to halt deposits and withdrawals, and developers promised to release an update to prevent further misbehavior. Curiously, the latest post from the official NEM account on Twitter, excluding a Merry Christmas greeting, was a “Please Stand By” image posted in July.
The regulatory environment remains shady for cryptocurrencies, and the latest victims were global payment processing companies Visa and Mastercard. According to a Feb. 28 Reuters report, the firms are delaying the launch of new partnerships with crypto companies until market conditions improve and a more transparent regulatory framework is established.
In more positive news, Ethereum's Sepolia testnet was successfully hard forked on Feb. 28 in preparation for the Shanghai upgrade. The much-anticipated mainnet update expected for March should finally allow validators to withdraw their staked Ether from the Beacon Chain. Developers are now prepping the Goerli testnet to enter a similar stage.
Let's look at Ether derivatives data to understand if the $1,560 support retest on Feb. 25 has impacted crypto investors' sentiment.
ETH futures show increased demand for leverage longs
The annualized two-month futures premium should trade between 5% and 10% in healthy markets to cover costs and associated risks. However, when the contract trades at a discount (backwardation) versus traditional spot markets, it shows a lack of confidence from traders and is deemed a bearish indicator.
The chart above shows that derivatives traders became slightly bullish as the Ether futures premium (on average) flirted with the 5% threshold on Feb. 26. More importantly, it shows resilience even as Ether price declined by nearly 10% between Feb. 19 and Feb. 25.
The increased demand for leverage longs (bulls) does not necessarily translate to an expectation of positive price action. Consequently, traders should analyze Ether’s options markets to understand how whales and market makers are pricing the odds of future price movements.
Options risk metrics show resilience despite a 10% price slide
The 25% delta skew is a telling sign when market makers and arbitrage desks are overcharging for upside or downside protection.
In bear markets, options investors give higher odds for a price dump, causing the skew indicator to rise above 10%. On the other hand, bullish markets tend to drive the skew metric below -10%, meaning the bearish put options are in less demand.
Related: Vitalik Buterin says 'more still needs to be done' over high Ethereum txn fees
The delta skew flirted with the bearish 9% level on Feb. 27, signaling stress from professional traders. However, the situation improved on Feb. 28 as the index moved to 5 — indicating a similar upside and downside risk appetite.
It makes sense for fundamental analysts to avoid adding bullish positions ahead of the Shanghai upgrade, especially since Ethereum developers have a history of delaying significant network changes.
Despite the range of concerning factors, options and futures markets signal that pro traders are conservatively bullish and trust that the ascending pattern will hold. From a technical analysis standpoint, investors appear to believe that the bullish trend will continue unless Ether breaks below the channel support at $1,520.
This article does not contain investment advice or recommendations. Every investment and trading move involves risk, and readers should conduct their own research when making a decision.
The views, thoughts and opinions expressed here are the authors’ alone and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views and opinions of Cointelegraph.