In this week’s newsletter, 21Shares explain Bitcoin’s recent price movements, Ethereum’s upcoming upgrade inching closer to mainnet, and how Polygon is leaping towards asset tokenization while helping consumers combat AI-generated fake news.
Bitcoin: Navigating a Cooling Market Amidst Unchanged Fundamentals
Despite investors capitalizing on profits at a rate reminiscent of late 2021, Bitcoin’s fundamentals stand resilient. To contextualize the price movements, with Bitcoin surging nearly 150% from the November 2022 lows and around 90% since the ETF-led speculation in October 2023, it’s reasonable to expect a cashing in on this rally. Although both short-term holders have been selling their holdings post the January 11th approval, the selling pressure, as indicated by transfers to exchanges in Figure 1, has started to stabilize. Nevertheless, a potential headwind lies in GBTC outflows. Particularly, investors who engaged in an arbitrage trade by purchasing GBTC in 2023 to leverage the fund’s discounted value, estimated at around $3 billion, are expected to be liquidating their positions. Further, the FTX estate divested most of its GBTC holdings, valued at approximately $1 billion, adding more color to the recent persistent outflows.
Figure 1: Short-Term Holders Transfer Activity to Exchanges
With the attainment of this historic milestone, it becomes imperative to examine Bitcoin’s fundamentals to gauge the network’s overall health. The surge in new active addresses since January 11 indicates investors’ anticipation for the upcoming April 2024 halving event. Furthermore, the network is transitioning into a new phase marked by the emergence of diverse scaling solutions aimed at overcoming its limitations. This evolution enhances Bitcoin’s competitiveness among smart-contract platforms and heightens user excitement. A notable example is the upcoming Nakamoto upgrade by Stacks, scheduled around the halving. This upgrade will introduce sBTC, a derivative of Bitcoin with smart-contract functionality, that will enable interaction on top of its unique DeFi ecosystem. Additionally, the upgrade aims to reduce the network’s settlement time from 10 minutes to five seconds, providing a more streamlined user experience on top of the Bitcoin blockchain.
Ultimately, as Bitcoin’s hash rate maintains its upward trajectory, signaling sustained resilience for the network, and is complemented by the increasing number of whales highlighted in Figure 2—representing investors holding more than 1,000 BTC—a clearer picture unfolds. It is evident that long-term holders and steadfast believers in Bitcoin remain unfazed by the recent developments.
Figure 2: Large Holders’ Balance
Ethereum Clears the First Hurdle Towards its New Upgrade
Dubbed Dencun, the upcoming network upgrade aims to slash gas fees for Ethereum’s scaling solutions by nearly 90%. This will be achieved through the introduction of data blobs, a novel data container that efficiently carries substantial amounts of data at a lower verification cost. This innovation is poised to significantly reduce settlement costs for rollup networks such as Arbitrum and Optimism. Despite a minor glitch in the first upgrade trial where the Prysm validator client software failed to sync data correctly due to a bug, the diverse client ecosystem maintained the network’s resilience, with Prysm accounting for less than 40% of all Ethereum nodes.
With the successful completion of the current upgrade, the path is now paved for two additional trial runs on January 30 and February 7, leading to the expected mainnet deployment in late March. This upgrade is pivotal, standing out as a key driver of excitement around Ethereum and its extensive ecosystem of scaling solutions, as evidenced by the network’s surging daily transactions reaching a multi-year high (see Figure 3). The upgrade, combined with speculating the approval of a Spot Ethereum ETF in the U.S. and its potential impact on ETH’s performance, is poised to generate momentum for the second-largest cryptocurrency by market cap, solidifying its market position.
Figure 3: Daily Transactions on Ethereum
Source: The Block
Polygon Advances Tokenization while Showcasing Blockchain’s Influence Beyond Financial Applications
Polygon’s Chain Developers Kit, introduced last year, has attracted protocols aiming to cater to the growing institutional appetite for tokenization. Libre is one of these protocols, introduced on January 10, with Hamilton Lane and Brevan Howard as the first consumers. Going live this quarter, Libre is an institution-focused protocol offering compliant issuance and automated lifecycle management of alternative investments. Moreover, Polygon Labs joined the Tokenized Asset Coalition aiming at bringing $1 trillion in assets on-chain. These initiatives focusing on accelerating the adoption of tokenized assets show the active role Polygon is aiming to play across the tokenized market, which we at 21Shares expect to grow to $10 trillion by 2030.
Beyond the financial use cases that crypto is misperceived to exclusively fulfill, Polygon also announced “Verify” in partnership with Fox Corporation. Verify is a blockchain-based content verification platform that aims to empower media companies to register their content and grant artificial intelligence (AI) platforms the right to use them so that end-users can easily verify the origin of a piece of content. This use case of blockchain technology is of utmost importance with the rapid rise of AI across different disciplines. AI-generated content may be used in bad faith to make a rumor believable, for example. Fake news can be detrimental in the age of AI. Verify is another example of how Polygon is trying to break the barrier and showcase blockchain’s value proposition beyond finance.
This Week’s Calendar
Source: Forex Factory
Each week the 21Shares Research team will publish our data-driven insights into the crypto asset world through this newsletter. Please direct any comments, questions, and words of feedback to email@example.com
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