According to blockchain data firm CryptoQuant, between 13:11 and 13:16 UTC Wednesday, a small group of people purchased the massive amount of Bitcoin on the spot market on centralized exchanges. But why the crypto whales placed Bitcoin buying orders of nearly $1.6 billion in a few minutes on an exchange instead of an over-the-counter desk remains unclear.
The timing of the purchase came after US Republicans shared favorable comments on cryptocurrencies, while markets expect that the US could soon approve a futures-based Bitcoin exchange fund.
Ki-Young Ju, co-founder and CEO of CryptoQuant, told CoinDesk that the purchase could have started on Coinbase. He pointed out that “Coinbase premium” rose sharply around the same time before it dropped again.
However, independent blockchain data analyst Willy Woo defied this version. By his words, the purchase mostly came from Binance, citing data from another blockchain data firm Glassnode. On Binance, the difference in Bitcoin volume flowing into and out of the exchange has been negative since the past weekend.
“I haven’t seen any net flows coming out of Coinbase, and also the buying on there is not that out of the ordinary compared to other exchanges,” Woo told CoinDesk. “The buying actually looked stronger on Binance … Coinbase was net selling more than buying.”
Regardless of which exchange was responsible for the large order that seemed to spur Bitcoin’s spike, the bigger question is why the purchase took place on an exchange. Usually, large Bitcoin orders are placed through the over-the-counter (OTC) market. In that way, the transactions won’t move prices the way they would have if the trades were occurring on the spot market via exchanges.
As per CryptoQuant’s Ju, a large purchase on the spot market that potentially has moved the market up dramatically seems suspicious. He suggested that whales were trying to stimulate interest among other investors by creating a price increase to make them fearful of missing out on the surge.
“Sometimes, you have to manipulate the price to make FOMO (fear of missing out),” Ju noted.
However, Lucas Outumuro, head of research at Miami, Florida-based blockchain data firm IntoTheBlock, said that large buys via OTC desks could be too slow for some traders because of the current bullish sentiment on the market.
“Given that Bitcoin broke out of a multi-month trendline and above a local high, I’d argue there’s a high amount of momentum trading taking place in spot markets – with high volume and conviction,” he claimed.
Indeed, as Bitcoin broke above $54,000 on Wednesday, institutional interest in Bitcoin has now back in full bullish mode. According to derivatives research firm Skew, one-month Bitcoin futures contracts based on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) are trading at an annualized premium of 17.73% to the spot price.
As CoinDesk recently reported, the increased premium on CME’s Bitcoin futures contracts shows higher demand among CME traders to build long exposure in Bitcoin. In the crypto market, analysts and traders consider CME synonymous with institutional investors.
“It’s rare to see BTC in the top 5% of crypto-asset performers in any given 24 hours,” said digital asset prime broker Genesis on Wednesday. “Given that BTC is for many large institutions the ‘on ramp,’… this further supports the conclusion that this runup is institution-driven.”