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Bitcoin Price Analysis – Technicals painting a bullish picture

Technicals have flipped strongly bullish over the past week in the setting of macroeconomic drivers and trade wars.

Bitcoin (BTC) is a decentralized digital currency that was released by Satoshi Nakamoto in 2009. The BTC market cap currently stands at US$211.25 billion, with US$9.50 billion traded in the past 24 hours. The current spot price is down 42% from the all-time high established in December 2017.However, spot prices across all markets, as well as on-chain metrics, have increased significantly this week.

Bitcoin Price Analysis 7 Aug 2019 (1)

Both the network hash rate and difficulty have continued to reach new record highs over the past few weeks, which may reflect relatively cheap electricity currently available in China as well as new ASICs being manufactured. The previous hash rate record occurred in November 2018, and preceded a 50% drop in price over the following month.

The BTC network is secured by the SHA-256 consensus algorithm. Two SHA-256 ASIC miners are set to be released later this year, the; MicroBT Whatsminer M20S and MicroBT Whatsminer M21. 13 new ASICs have been released since January this year. The most profitable miners currently available are; the ASICminer 8 Nano Pro, Bitfury Tardis, Bitmain Antminer S17, and MicroBT Whatsminer M215.

Network factors that influence mining profitability include; price, block times, difficulty, block reward, and transaction fees. Electricity costs are also a significant factor when determining profitability for various ASICs. During the flood season from April to October every year in the Chinese province of Sichuan, electricity drops to a cost of US$0.04 cents/KWh due to the abundance of hydroelectric power. Excluding the Bitmain Antminer S3 and S5, all ASICs are currently profitable at this electricity price point.

Bitcoin Price Analysis 7 Aug 2019 (2)
Source: asicminervalue

The total percentage of overt version-rolling ASICBoost on the network has ranged between 35% and 40% over the past few months, and currently accounts for approximately 42% of all blocks mined. Overt ASICBoost, which has no detrimental effects on the network, makes mining more profitable by lowering energy use.

Average block times are currently 10 minutes with an estimated 11.28% increase in difficulty projected for the next adjustment in 11 days. Network difficulty adjusts up to +/-25% after 2,016 blocks have confirmed. As hash rate decreases before a difficulty adjustment, block times increase. As hash rate increases before a difficulty adjustment, block times decrease. The double-digit difficulty increase on August 4th was the third of such magnitude since January.

Bitcoin Price Analysis 7 Aug 2019 (3)
Source: BitInfoCharts

BTC inflation currently stands at 3.66%, and is set to decrease in a stepwise fashion over time. The next block reward halving is estimated to be 300 days from now, in May 2020, when annual inflation will decrease to 1.80%. As hash rate continues to get added to the network, the estimated time until the next halving will reduce.

Bitcoin Price Analysis 7 Aug 2019 (4)
Source: bashco.github.io/Bitcoin_Monetary_Inflation

On the network side, both the on-chain transactions per day (line, chart below) and average transaction value in USD have risen significantly since April 2018 and February 2019, respectively. Over the past few weeks, both metrics have declined slightly, with transactions per day currently at nearly 335,000 and average transaction values at US$38,000. The current record for transactions per day was sent December 2017 at 500,000, and the current record for average transaction values in USD was set on July 22nd at nearly US$200,000.

Bitcoin Price Analysis 7 Aug 2019 (5)
Source: BitInfoCharts

Compared to the previous period of record breaking transactions per day and price, in late 2017, there are currently very few unconfirmed transactions. There are also very few transactions being sent with a zero fee (blue fill, chart below) compared to several periods in 2017.

Additionally, SegWit allows individual transactions to occupy less block space than a traditional transaction. Segwit, or BIP141, was activated on August 23rd, 2017 via a user activated soft fork. Although both non-SegWit and SegWit transactions can be sent over the network, SegWit users pay less in accumulated fees to achieve the same number of transactions.

SegWit also allows for an effective blocksize limit of roughly 2.2MB. The number of transactions using SegWit and the volume of total SegWit transactions stands at 32% and 30%, respectively. If Binance or VeriBlock (VBK) enabled SegWit transactions, these SegWit usage values would be substantially higher. VeriBlock alone currently accounts for 6.63% of all on-chain transactions.

Bitcoin Price Analysis 7 Aug 2019 (6)
Source: jochen-hoenicke.de

The average BTC block size (fill, chart below) increased substantially from April 2018 to June 29th, due to both an increase in on-chain activity as well as VBK, which secures other blockchains through the “Proof of Proof” (PoP) consensus mechanism. Since June 29th, average block size has dropped from nearly 2 MB to 1.61 MB.

The average transaction fee (line, chart below) is currently US$1.30, despite a growing block size and increased on-chain use since the record high of US$62 in late December 2017. Both the lack of zero fee transactions and increased scalability have kept fees substantially lower than late in 2017.

Additionally, transaction batching and the increasing off-chain capabilities of Lightning Network have decreased on-chain transaction bloat. Transaction batching is most effective for entities with a high amount of on-chain transactions outputs, like miners or exchanges. Bitmex does not currently batch transactions but they are in the process of enabling the federated sidechain called Liquid, by Blockstream. Liquid is currently integrated with Bitfinex.

Bitcoin Price Analysis 7 Aug 2019 (7)
Source: CoinMetrics

The 30-day Kalichkin network value to on-chain transactions ratio (NVT) has continued to increase since January, and is currently at 62 (line, chart below). While Kalichkin’s NVT does not account for inflation or the use of off-chain transactions, which would decrease the overall NVT ratio, the metric remains in the upper-third of the historic range.

The three previous highs in NVT, February 2011, October 2014, and October 2018, were all followed by bearish price moves. Based on this metric, the probability for a local top in price will increase if another local high on NVT is reached.

Monthly active addresses (MAA) have also increased substantially over the past six-months. MAA has grown to over 719,000 from a yearly low of 580,000. Daily active addresses (DAA) surpassed one million on June 14th, 26th, and 28th. This was the first time DAA had exceeded one million since February 2018. On December 14th, 2017, DAA exceeded 1.28 million. A large uptick or sustained increase in DAA should be seen as a bullish indicator for price as it suggests an increase in on-chain BTC demand. As off-chain transaction facilities increase, daily active addresses may stagnate or decline over time.

Bitcoin Price Analysis 7 Aug 2019 (8)
Source: CoinMetrics

The market cap divided by the realized cap (MVRV) is another crypto-native fundamental metric used to asses overbought or oversold conditions. Realized cap approximates the value paid for all coins in existence by summing the market value of coins at the time they last moved on the blockchain. The metric was created through a combination of efforts by Murad Mahmudov, David Puell, Nic Carter, and Antoine Le Calvez.

Historically, periods of an MVRV less than one have represented oversold conditions, whereas periods of an MVRV greater than 3.5 have represented overbought conditions. Of the MVRV levels above four since January 2013, all three have coincided with record highs in price. Currently, MVRV is at the median of both extremes, which yields no bias in either direction.

Bitcoin Price Analysis 7 Aug 2019 (9)
Source: CoinMetrics

Analyzing the age of UTXOs, or unspent coins, can also provide some insights into price movements. Spikes in newly moved coins tend to correlate highly with local tops or bottoms in price, and can represent euphoria or capitulation. Coins which have not moved recently are represented in cooler colors wheres as coins on the move are represented by warmer colors.

Coins that have not moved in more than five years account for 21.55% of the circulating supply, or 3.849 million BTC. The 6-12 month age band, or coins not moved since February 2019 – July 2018, holds the next highest distribution at 13.67% of the circulating supply. The lower age distributions, less than one-month old, have been rising recently, suggesting the potential for a local top at the current price level is growing, although this also may represent exchanges re-arranging cold storage wallets. Historically, local tops in price have occurred when the one to three month band has represented more than 15% of all circulating UTXOs.

Bitcoin Price Analysis 7 Aug 2019 (10)
Source: https://plot.ly/~unchained/37.embed

Turning to developer activity, over 170 developers have contributed over 1,700 commits in the past year, mostly on the main repo. The BTC project on GitHub has two active repos, “bitcoin” (top chart, shown below) and Bitcoin Improvement Protocols, “BIPs” (bottom chart, shown below).

Most coins use the developer community of GitHub where files are saved in folders called "repositories," or "repos," and changes to these files are recorded with "commits," which save a record of what changes were made, when, and by who. Although commits represent quantity and not necessarily quality, a higher number of commits can signify higher developer activity and interest.

Bitcoin Core version 0.18.0 was released in mid-May, providing various bug fixes and performance improvements. Future potential protocol improvements in the pipeline include Schnorr signatures, Taproot, and Graftroot. Schnorr signatures and signature aggregation also bring the potential for storage and bandwidth reduction by at least 25%. Taproot and Graftroot improve upon Merkelized Abstract Syntax Trees (MAST) which offers three benefits; smaller transactions, more privacy, and larger smart contracts.

Bitcoin Price Analysis 7 Aug 2019 (11)
Source: GitHub

Bitcoin Price Analysis 7 Aug 2019 (12)
Source: GitHub

BTC exchange traded volume over the past 24 hours has been dominated by Tether (USDT) trading, with the United States Dollar (USD) markets representing 12% of total volume. Stable coin volumes currently represent over 75% of all reported volume over the past 24 hours.

A price deviation between the USDT and USD exchanges (right panel, chart below), specifically between Bitfinex and Coinbase, has been extremely volatile over the past few months. This has likely been related to both a short halt in withdrawals, the LEO Token (LEO) IEO, and the New York Attorney General’s report and active court case.

The price deviation, which started to increase in mid-October, was due in large part to a decrease in the USDT market rate (left panel, chart below). The BTC price premium has since become negligible as USDT has held a market rate near US$1.00.

Bitcoin Price Analysis 7 Aug 2019 (13)

Several potentially game-changing BTC services are slated for launch this year, indicating an increase in market access and custody for both retail traders and institutional entities. According to data gathered by Alistair Milne, Coinbase recently broke the 30 million user mark, indicating a significant uptick in retail accounts on that platform as well.

Fidelity, Bakkt, and TD Ameritrade all have plans to launch institutional trading products for BTC which solves the biggest problem for institutional players: custody. Bitmex, who is currently under investigation by the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), has also announced plans to launch a BTC zero coupon bond where users can earn a yield on their holdings by loaning BTC to other companies in the space.

Further, fresh applications for the Bitwise and VanEck-SolidX BTC ETFs were submitted to the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in February. All previous BTC ETF proposals have been rejected by the US regulator. So far this year, the SEC has delayed decisions on both ETF applications. The next two deadlines for the SEC decisions on the pending US ETFs are August 19th and October 18th. However, there are several BTC ETNs available, from various jurisdictions across the globe, which are seeing increasing volumes.

Bitcoin Price Analysis 7 Aug 2019 (14)

Global over the counter (OTC) volume, from LocalBitcoins.com, finished 2018 on a high but has declined as BTC spot prices have increased. Global notional volume has held near or above US$50 million since the beginning of the year, but rose to US$67 million in early July. In late May, LocalBitcoins discontinued servicing Iran, likely as a result of US sanctions and on June 1st, the service disabled paying for BTC with in-person cash trades.

The biggest increases in BTC and notional volume over the past few months have come from South American countries where inflation or hyperinflation have devalued local currencies. Notional volume in Venezuela reached a record high again over the past week. Notional volume has also recently spiked in Egypt, Europe, Hong Kong, Hungary, India, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Malaysia, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Ukraine, and the United Arab Emirates.

Bitcoin Price Analysis 7 Aug 2019 (15)

Google Trends data for the term "bitcoin" has increased dramatically since May, marking a new yearly high. The increase in search traffic has likely been related to both the sharp increase in price as well as mentions by several prominent US government officials, including the President of the United States. Throughout the course of 2018, “bitcoin” related searches declined dramatically. Despite the declining interest, the search “what is bitcoin” was the most popular “what is” Google search of 2018.

A slow rise in searches for "bitcoin" preceded the bull run in Q4 2017, likely signaling a large swath of new market participants at that time. A 2015 study found a strong correlation between google trends data and BTC price whereas a 2017 study concluded that when U.S. Google "bitcoin" searches increased dramatically, BTC price dropped.

Bitcoin Price Analysis 7 Aug 2019 (16)

Technical Analysis

BTC gained nearly 35% this past week as the US Federal Reserve lowered interest rates for the first time since 2008. As BTC markets again find bullish strength, a roadmap for trading decisions can be established using Exponential Moving Averages, Volume Profile of the Visible Range, Pivot Points, oscillators, Pitchforks, and the Ichimoku Cloud. Further background information on the technical analysis discussed below can be found here.

Over the weekend, CNY per USD, which is set at a fixed rate by the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) broke a critical level dating back to 2008. This event correlated with a violent jump in BTC price, almost to the minute. Historically, CNY devaluation has brought increased BTC prices as the CNY capital flight narrative is brought forward.

Bitcoin Price Analysis 7 Aug 2019 (17)

On the daily chart, the spot price relative to the 50-day Exponential Moving Average (EMA) and 200-day EMA can be used as a litmus test for the trend. Price surpassed the 50-day EMA in mid-February and surpassed the 200-day EMA on April 2nd. The EMAs crossed bullishly in late April, representing an end to the almost year-long bear trend. The 50-day EMA is currently at US$10,200 and 200-day EMA is currently at US$7,900, both should now act as support.

Volume Profile of the Visible Range (VPVR) also shows large volume nodes at US$6,500 and US$8,200, which should both also act as support (horizontal bars, chart below). VPVR shows very little resistance above the current price level. Additionally, yearly Pivot Points, at US$8,150 and US$13,000, should act as support and resistance, respectively. If price breaches the nearest resistance Pivot Point, the next historic resistance zone is US$22,000.

The Bitfinex long/short ratio is currently net long, with both longs and shorts rising over the past week. There are also currently no active bearish divergences to suggest waning bearish momentum, and a bullish divergence is unlikely to form on any current price action.

Bitcoin Price Analysis 7 Aug 2019 (18)

A high timeframe Pitch Fork (PF) with anchor points in January, July, and August 2015 shows price recently reaching the upper resistance limit towards US$14,000 and returning to the median line (yellow). Throughout any given trend price returns to the median line several times. The previous price break above the PF resistance led to a run toward the current record high at nearly US$20,000. Sustained price action above US$15,000 would suggest a severe hastening of the current trend, which would be typical of a parabolic advance. The lower bound of the PF stands at US$5,800 and represents the last support before significant bearish momentum.

Bitcoin Price Analysis 7 Aug 2019 (19)

Turning to the Ichimoku Cloud, there are four key metrics; the current price in relation to the Cloud, the color of the Cloud (red for bearish, green for bullish), the Tenkan (T) and Kijun (K) cross, and the Lagging Span. The best entry always occurs when most of the signals flip from bearish to bullish, or vice versa.

On the weekly chart, the Cloud metrics are beginning to lean bullish for the first time since 2018; price is above the Cloud, the Cloud is bearish, the TK cross is bullish, and the Lagging Span is above price and above Cloud. The previous break above the weekly Cloud, in 2016, led to a 39% correction followed by an over 3,000% increase over the next 500 days. A similar correction from the current price level would essentially bring price to the Kijun at US$8,500.

Bitcoin Price Analysis 7 Aug 2019 (20)

On the daily chart, Cloud metrics are bullish; price is above the Cloud, the Cloud is bullish, the TK cross has re-crossed bullishly, and Lagging span is above the Cloud and in price. After a Kumo breakout, bearish or bullish, the probability of a new trend forming rises substantially. A bullish TK re-cross above the Cloud is the most bullish trend indicator in the Cloud system. These such crosses occurred three times throughout 2017 (yellow arrows), all leading to strong bullish continuation.

Bitcoin Price Analysis 7 Aug 2019 (21)

Lastly, the opening and expiration dates of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) BTC cash-settled futures contracts, launched in December 2017, have had a significant impact on price. The CME facilitates trades for the largest portion of derivatives contracts in the world.

Last month, the CME saw the highest notional volume ever in a single day for the BTC futures product, exceeding US$1.5 billion. Historically, price volatility tends to increase dramatically near any active contract expiration. Volatility increased substantially near the close of the June 28th and July 26th contracts. The next key zone for increased volatility will likely come near the expiration of the June 3rd to August 30th contract.

Bitcoin Price Analysis 7 Aug 2019 (22)

Conclusion

Network mining fundamentals have shown impressive growth in the past few weeks with both hash rate and difficulty pushing new all-time highs. As long as the markets remain bullish, and mining profitability remains positive, miners will likely continue to add hash rate, especially as older ASICs return to profitability. Additionally, the seasonality of cheap electricity in regions of China supplied by hydroelectric power have likely fueled a mining boom. Transactions per day and daily active addresses have decreased slightly from local highs over the past few weeks. Both NVT and MVRV, which are inversely related to on-chain activity, have been flat over the past week, confirming weakening on-chain use.

Technicals have flipped strongly bullish over the past week in the setting of macroeconomic drivers and trade wars. Trend metrics on the daily have now reset and are suggestive of continued bullish price action over the next few weeks. Trend is likely to remain strongly bullish so long as price remains above the Cloud. The current resistance level to watch is the previous local high and yearly pivot at US$13,000.

Pending key events that may impact price include; CME futures contract expiry on August 30th, resolution of both the Bitfinex and Bitmex regulatory probes, the launch of three different institutional trading products, and pending BTC US ETFs.


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