Thursday, November 26, 2020

Pro traders added to shorts as Bitcoin price broke $12K — Data shows

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As Bitcoin (BTC) breaks the $12,000 resistance, derivatives markets are flirting with overly excessive bullish sentiment. The futures basis and the options 25% delta skew both reached the same levels seen now on October 12 when BTC briefly tested $11,700 but failed to maintain momentum.

What differentiates the current situation from nine days ago is the positions of top crypto traders. On Oct. 12, these traders increased their longs, but during the recent move to $12,000 these professional traders are opening up short positions.

Despite this flip in sentiment, traders should not automatically conclude that today’s pump will turn into a flop exclusively based on the longs-to-shorts indicator. For starters, there is no way to know for sure how the top traders are positioned off-exchange.

For this reason, derivatives pricing is a better way to assess how bullish or bearish professional traders might be. This indicator focuses on the actual market conditions, whereas both the fear and greed and options put-to-call ratio are backward-looking.

Futures markets tend to trade at a slight premium to regular spot exchanges. This event is not exclusive to crypto markets but rather a derivatives effect.

The futures contracts premium (or basis) should range between a 5% to 10% annualized rate for healthy markets. Figures above this range denote excessive optimism, as traders bet on much higher prices. In the opposite situation, a negative futures contract premium indicates bearish sentiment.

BTC 3-month futures contracts annualized premium. Source: Skew

The above chart shows how the basis indicator has been flirting with over-optimistic levels, similar to what happened on October 12.

Traders should not mistake optimism with leverage as a positive funding rate on perpetual contracts is also needed to confirm this thesis.

The perpetual futures funding rate settles every 8 hours on most exchanges, and a fee is paid from longs (buyers) to shorts whenever the funding rate is positive. This situation would be the defining characteristic of overleveraged buyers, but that hasn’t been the case so far.

BTC perpetual contracts funding rate. Source: Digital Assets Data

The data above shows how volatile the funding rate has been, although there has not been any sustained funding periods. The standard measure for this indicator is 8 hours. Therefore a 0.05% rate is equivalent to 1% per week. The opposite holds for a negative funding rate when shorts are the ones paying it.

As for the BTC options market, there has been a similar movement as the 25% delta skew indicator entered the overconfident bullish territory. A negative skew indicates calls (buy) options cost more than similar puts (sell) options, thus indicating bullish sentiment. On the other hand, a positive skew suggests bearishness.

BTC 3-month 25% delta options skew. Source: Skew

Take notice how close the skew indicator is to its lowest levels in 6 months, indicating traders’ optimism. This situation is the same as October 12, when BTC gained 10% in 4 days. Although nothing is barring the skew indicator from remaining at the current level for extended periods, it is unlikely in BTC history.

After reading derivatives market indicators, one might conclude that professional traders are leaning bullish by adding long positions above $12K. Except, exchange-provided data on top traders long-to-short net ratios shows this hasn’t been the case.

Clients Long/Short Ratio. Source: Binance & OKEx

There are often discrepancies between exchanges’ methodologies, so readers should monitor changes instead of absolute figures. According to the above data, it is safe to say that top clients were either neutral or adding long positions ahead of Oct. 12.

On the other hand, there has been a sizable move in both exchanges over the past two days as top traders were more active on the sell-side when BTC approached $12K.

Therefore, regardless of derivatives indicators’ bullishness, these traders are signaling a lack of short-term optimism.

These seemingly opposing signals could reflect the recent 15% hike in two weeks, causing some traders to realize gains. Even though derivatives markets continue to favor a bullish trend, top traders appear to see no reason to add to long positions at the current levels.

Although the top traders call seems to have failed for now, they appear to be in no rush to FOMO at the current levels. Until these begin building some substantial long positions above $12K, this support level cannot be deemed strong enough.

The views and opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Cointelegraph. Every investment and trading move involves risk. You should conduct your own research when making a decision.