Bitcoin and Ether Sink As Kraken Settles With SEC

Bitcoin and ether looked heavy before news of Kraken’s SEC settlement over its staking products. Now, they look heavier

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Artomat/Shutterstock modified by Blockworks

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Both bitcoin (BTC) and ether (ETH) broke downwards after Kraken’s SEC settlement, having traded tightly between two key levels for nearly three weeks.

The bellwether crypto began selling off at around 2pm ET on Thursday, falling 5% from a daily support level around $22,400 that had held since Jan. 20. It’s now changing hands in the $21,800 range. 

The ether to bitcoin ratio has also tightened of late, especially so over the last few months, according to crypto-focused financial services platform BitOoda.

The ratio is a measure of the relative value between ether and bitcoin, expressed as the quantity of ETH one BTC can purchase. 

Ether traded for $1,545 as of 7pm ET, down 6.5% on the day. “ETH is poised to see substantially increased volatility coming out of Shanghai,” BitOoda told Blockworks in a statement.

Over the month to date, bitcoin has dropped harder than ether

Bitcoin’s topside price action, meanwhile, has been muted under $24,000 for most of the year — following three denied attempts by buyers to drive prices higher on Jan. 25, Jan. 29 and Feb. 2.

BTC started 2023 at $16,600 before jumping as much as 43%.

Crypto market participants search for clarity

Industry folk have pointed to the SEC’s move to charge crypto exchange Kraken over its US staking products as adding to existing sell-side pressure. The regulator recently slapped Kraken with two related charges.

The exchange settled on both counts, agreeing to pay $30 million in fines as a result, with confirmation breaking on Thursday.

Some, like Zhong Yang Chan, CoinGecko’s head of research, see it as an inevitable market correction, following weeks of exuberance since the start of the year.

“The SEC taking action against centralized exchanges offering staking-as-a-service has also rocked the crypto markets,” Chan said.

A complete ban on staking could have a profound impact on two specific categories of investors including beginners unfamiliar with decentralized alternatives and institutions uncomfortable about deviating from centralized entities, he added.

The SEC’s growing digital assets enforcement actions add up to an “attack on US crypto companies and retail investors,” according to Kristin Smith, chief executive of crypto lobbyist Blockchain Association.

The sentiment has resulted in a US regulatory landscape driven by “regulation by enforcement and undercutting the potential of public blockchain networks,” Smith said in a statement. 

The SEC’s most recent maneuver does not appear to affect individual staking efforts and is instead designed to target centralized providers of staking services — Kraken, in this case. 

Jehan Chu, founder of Hong Kong trading firm Kenetic, told Blockworks that even though crypto’s recent surge lacked fundamentals, the regulator’s latest “incursion” on Kraken’s staking isn’t helping matters for traders. 

“[The SEC is] demonstrating again its ‘scorched-earth’ crypto policy and determination to drag the US back to the ticker-taper age,” Chu said.

Other cryptos are also feeling the residual heat as the sell-off begins to erase gains that had been weeks in the making. 

Of those within the top 20 digital assets by market capitalization, dogecoin (DOGE), solana (SOL) and shibu inu (SHIB) are hardest hit — shedding 10%, 11% and 14% respectively on the day.

Updated Feb. 9, 2023 at 10:01 pm ET: Added additional commentary from CoinGecko’s head of research


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