Why Are Crypto Markets In Trouble? – Forbes Advisor INDIAbit2main
Bitcoin, the bellwether for the crypto market, recently took a beating. Blame the stablecoins.
Last week, Bitcoin hit a 52-week low, slumping to $25,402, a level not seen since December 2020. The “digital gold” has since rebounded—but, at the time of this writing, it was still trading around $30,000.
Crypto and equity markets have been selling off since the start of 2022, thanks to headwinds as varied as inflation, rising interest rates and the war in Ukraine.
The recent, massive market volatility, however, is something special, linked directly to the troubles of TerraUSD (UST). This once-popular stablecoin has imploded in a matter of days, losing 95% of its market cap since May 6.
Let’s take a closer look at the stablecoin market to understand how the breakdown of one popular coin could crash the entire cryptocurrency market in a matter of days.
What Are Stablecoins?
In cryptoland, stablecoins come in several flavors. But as the name suggests, a stablecoin aims to provide a “safe” digital asset that maintains a stable valuation.
Here’s how stablecoins work. Their value is pegged to the price of another asset, most commonly a fiat currency like the U.S. dollar. The goal is for the stablecoin to maintain the same value as its peg.
With a dollar peg, one stablecoin should always be valued at one dollar, no matter what’s happening elsewhere in the market.
Today, the stablecoin Tether (USDT) is the third largest cryptocurrency by market cap. Both USDT and its fellow stablecoin USD Coin (USDC) are pegged to the U.S. dollar. When you buy $10 of USDT, you expect it to be worth $10 tomorrow and $10 one year from now.
How Does TerraUSD Work?
TerraUSD is an entirely different beast than Tether or USD Coin. It’s an “algorithmic stablecoin,” backed by nothing more than the magic of computer code.
With an algorithmic stablecoin, a computer program maintains the crypto’s supply. Once you understand that there’s nothing but code backing up the likes of UST, you begin to see how things could have gone south so quickly.
So let’s dive into the whole mess of TerraUSD, which plunged as low as $0.23, far below its $1 peg. Crypto experts say the mechanisms behind TerraUSD were fundamentally flawed from the get-go.
In the TerraUSD system, a special crypto token called LUNA is used to help UST hold its 1-to-1 peg value with the U.S. dollar.
“This whole system is entirely broken because it rests on a speculative asset—LUNA—to be the collateral,” says Colin Aulds, founder of cryptocurrency storage company Privacy Pros. “The problem is that LUNA was created for the purpose of being collateral simply because the Terra ecosystem needed collateral.”
There was little that was stable, so to speak, behind this stablecoin other than its programmatic language.
Why Is Terra (LUNA) Crashing?
LUNA was meant to buffer TerraUSD against market volatility, but it succumbed to extreme selling over recent days. Its trading price was knocked down to $0.03, last week. That’s down 99.9% since May 6.
“It was inevitable Terra crashed as the reliance on using other cryptocurrencies as collateral as well as the minting/burning mechanism of LUNA for Terra was not sufficient to survive any serious market volatility,” says Adam Carlton, CEO of crypto wallet PinkPanda says.
In a bid to save TerraUSD, the Luna Foundation Guard (LFG), the nonprofit that supports the Terra network, depleted its entire reserve of $3 billion in Bitcoin. And it was the fund’s dumping of its Bitcoin reserves in a last-ditch effort to save UST that probably helped contribute to Bitcoin’s volatility.
Will the Crypto Market Recover?
While the sun may be setting on TerraUSD, it’s not all doom and gloom for the future of the crypto market.
Ric Edelman, founder of the Digital Assets Council of Financial Professionals and the author of “The Truth About Crypto,” says what happened this week was contagion.
“During periods of panic, people sell indiscriminately,” Edelman says. “Soon, smart investors realize that’s silly, and they recognize that a big buying opportunity exists.”
Edelman expects a swift recovery in Bitcoin and Ethereum prices. In his opinion, too many people bought into TerraUSD without considering how the system actually worked, making the current situation all but inevitable.
What’s the Future of Stablecoins?
With the implosion of TerraUSD, other stablecoins are under a microscope, particularly Tether. Remember, USDT is supposed to be backed by holdings of U.S. dollars—and as of writing, USDT has a market cap of $82 billion.
Skeptics allege that the organization that runs Tether does not have $82 billion backing up its coin.
Last week, the market tested this thesis. USDT dipped to $0.97, briefly losing its peg to the U.S. dollar. It has since rebounded to parity, but its future health is now in question.
Crypto market participants expect a degree of slippage—one USDT is likely to be valued very slightly less than one dollar—as one stablecoin is riskier than one dollar. But it doesn’t take very many pennies off the peg to vaporize market confidence for a stablecoin.
The market is clearly showing us that collateralized stablecoins are the future,” says Andrew Pesco, head of investment management at Domain Money.
Collateralized stablecoins like USD Coin (USDC) have proven to be resilient this week. Despite the messy week, USDC is still trading at $1, and it even experienced a high of $1.13.
Carlton says, “Despite all the harm done by the Terra foundation’s reckless approach to stablecoins, we will see the industry step up and create even more resilience in the markets.”
More Stablecoin Regulation to Come
The unwinding of TerraUSD caught the attention of U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, who mentioned the possibility of stablecoin regulations after it was apparent that TerraUSD was in a meltdown and that a framework was needed to guard against the risks.
Edelman says there’s no question that more regulation is needed to protect investors.
“That effort is underway… and I’m confident that regs will be in place within the next couple of years, to everyone’s benefit,” he says.