The crypto markets started the week quiet with bitcoin trading within a tight range under $35,000, but that changed overnight when bitcoin soared by double-digit percentage points.
It's not exactly clear what was behind the surge, but traders have pointed to two potential catalysts: the bitcoin options market's largest-ever expiry — worth some $3.2 billion — and Elon Musk.
"So just after the expiry, the $5k pump started, either caused by our expiry or by Musk's tweet," said Deribit COO Luuk Strijers. The firm facilitated the expiry of those 103,000 BTC options early Friday — a record for the firm.
But most trading firms say the price pump was tied to Elon Musk when he updated his Twitter to include "#bitcoin" in his bio and subsequently tweeting: "In retrospect, it was inevitable."
"Ended up the most volatile expiry ever, all thanks to the Elon Bomb," said Richard Rosenblum, co-founder of crypto trading shop GSR.
The dichotomy reflects the present state of markets: social media activity can be enough to drive markets up based on few fundamentals.
Indeed, data from crypto brokerage firm FalconX shows that the overnight price rally was driven by retail trading volumes, not hedge fund volumes. The firm shared data with The Block showing hedge fund volumes are down 45% from 3am EST to 10am EST while the flows from retail aggregators are up over 1,100% during the same time period.
"I think there's definitely correlation with the Wall Street Bets news," said Aya Kantorovich, head of institutional coverage at FalconX. "Most of these retail aggregators are US based as well, and time zone wise, I think also interesting point is that it’s more US driven."
Markets have been gripped over the last week as bands of retail traders on social forums like Reddit drove up share price in names that have been hedge fund short targets. Stocks like GameStop and AMC have surged more than 500%, putting both Wall Street and regulators on guard.
"Any hedge fund will be carefully looking at all their shorts after this week and regulators will look very carefully at collective retail trading,” Deutsche Bank analysts said.