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Traders might rejoice now that Bitcoin price ventured above $17,400, but twenty-seven long days have passed since Bitcoin (BTC) last breached the $17,250 resistance.
On December 13, after a two-week-long lateral movement, Bitcoin posted a 6.5% rally toward $18,000 and even though the current movement still lacks strength, traders believe that a retest of the $18,250 resistance remains possible.
Bitcoin 12-hour price index, USD. Source: TradingView
To start the week, the S&P 500 index rose to its highest level in twenty-six days on Jan. 9. Weak economic data had previously fueled investors’ expectation of slower interest rate hikes by the U.S. Federal Reserve (FED) and the Jan. 12 Consumer Index Report (CPI) could lend some credence to this expectation.
On Jan. 6, German retail sales data showed a 5.9% year-on-year contraction took place in November. In the U.S., economic activity in the services sector contracted in December after 30 consecutive months of growth. The Services PMI reading was 49.6%, and readings below 50% typically point toward a weakening economy.
Investors anxiously wait for the Consumer Price Index (CPI) release on Jan. 12, which is more likely to dictate bets on whether the FED will raise interest rates by 0.25% or 0.50% in early February. Economists expect inflation to increase by 6.6% over the prior year in December, so a weaker-than-consensus CPI could further boost markets’ performance.
Still, the impacts of a year-long bear market continue to play out as digital asset manager Osprey Funds reportedly laid off most of its staff during the second half of 2022. The investment company offers crypto products for its accredited investors’ brokerage accounts, including a trust.
Analysts should focus on Bitcoin derivatives to understand if the recent positive price action has finally turned crypto investors’ sentiment positive.
The futures premium shows sentiment is slowly improving
Retail traders usually avoid quarterly futures due to their price difference from spot markets. Meanwhile, professional traders prefer these instruments because they prevent the fluctuation of funding rates in a perpetual futures contract.
The two-month futures annualized premium should trade between 4% to 8% in healthy markets to cover costs and associated risks. Thus, when the futures trade below such a range, it shows a lack of confidence from leverage buyers — typically, a bearish indicator.
Bitcoin 2-month futures annualized premium. Source: Laevitas.ch
The above chart shows positive momentum for the Bitcoin futures premium, which recovered from a 3% discount on Dec. 30 to the current positive 1%. Although it is still in the neutral-to-bearish area, it represents less pessimism versus Dec. 13, before Bitcoin price pumped to $18,000. However, the demand for leverage longs at $17,000 is shy according to the metric.
Before jumping to conclusions, traders should also analyze Bitcoin’s options markets to exclude externalities specific to the futures instrument.
Options are pricing similar risks for upside and downside
The 25% delta skew is a telling sign when market makers and arbitrage desks are overcharging for upside or downside protection.
In bear markets, options investors give higher odds for a price dump, causing the skew indicator to rise above 10%. On the other hand, bullish markets tend to drive the skew indicator below -10%, meaning the bearish put options are discounted.
Bitcoin 60-day options 25% delta skew: Source: Laevitas.ch
The delta skew bottomed at 8% on Jan. 9, signaling that options traders are pricing similar risks for upside and downside. More importantly, the current level is the lowest since Nov. 8, 2022, or since the FTX exchange implosion.
Even if there’s no appetite for leverage longs using Bitcoin futures, the whales and market makers trading options are getting more comfortable with $17,000 becoming support.
Although there is no evidence that a pump to $18,250 is in the making, at least traders are less risk-averse, according to derivatives data.