The bitcoin price has dropped to under $17,000, a level not seen for more than two years (though one tiny cryptocurrency has rocketed into the new year).
Now, billionaire investor and crypto-convert Mark Cuban has warned the next bitcoin and crypto meltdown could already be looming, despite one former bitcoin billionaire predicting a massive rally due to one overlooked element.
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“I think the next possible implosion is the discovery and removal of wash trades on central exchanges,” Cuban told The Street. “There are supposedly tens of millions of dollars in trades and liquidity for tokens that have very little utilization. I don’t see how they can be that liquid.”
However, the Shark Tank star, who last month said he wants the bitcoin price to keep falling so he can buy more, added that he didn’t have “any specifics to offer to support my guess.”
Wash trading in crypto involves artificially generating interest in a cryptocurrency through exchange-based trades that could result in a price pump.
Last year, Forbes analysis of over 150 crypto exchanges around the world found 51% of the daily bitcoin trading volume being reported is likely wash trading.
As much as 70% of crypto trading activity on many of the world’s biggest bitcoin and crypto exchanges could be illicit wash trades, according to a December report from National Bureau of Economic Research.
“These estimates translate into wash trading of over $4.5 trillion in spot markets and over $1.5 trillion in derivatives markets in the first quarter of 2020 alone,” the report authors wrote.
Recent research into non-fungible token (NFT) wash trading specifically has found wash trading accounted for over half (58%) of the total NFT trade volumes on the ethereum blockchain in 2022, described by market watchers as crypto’s most “overlooked problem.”
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Meanwhile, bitcoin and crypto investors are hoping an improving macroeconomic picture will mean an end to 2022’s brutal bear market.
“In a bull case scenario of 2023, U.S. inflation would drop so as the Fed’s monetary policy tightening peaks while the labor market stays strong,” Jack Tan, cofounder of trading platform Woo Network, said in emailed comments.
“This means better risk sentiment for the crypto market. On the other hand, the bear case would be that the U.S. inflation remains sticky. Although the October and November inflation prints this year surprised to the downside, more evidence is needed to confirm a shift and there still can be uncertainties for inflation in 2023. There is a lag in the impact of the Fed’s hikes on the real economy.”