The price of Bitcoin has rallied in recent weeks, more than doubling from its November 2022 lows after the UK collapse of the cryptocurrency exchange FTX. Former day traders who previously made big profits from Bitcoin’s volatile swings say they have no plans to return, however, even as optimism grows that the market is turning a corner.
Bitcoin’s ‘Allure is Kind of Gone’
“Bitcoin is not as volatile or as driven as it was,” said Peter To, a 34-year-old professional stock trader in New York who claims to have made over $1 million day trading Bitcoin from 2013 to 2017, in an interview with Bloomberg. “For traders like me who are hunting for inefficiencies in the market, it’s not as interesting. The allure is kind of gone.”
As the cryptocurrency industry looks to move past the FTX debacle and usher in a more mature era, some believe the days of spectacular growth and trading opportunities may be over. While Bitcoin’s recent climb above $35,000 sparked some enthusiasm, it remains far below its all-time high of nearly $69,000 in 2021.
This #Bitcoin consolidation range is getting more boring by the day… pic.twitter.com/HFnkreZqEa
— Justin Gallum (@JustinGallum) November 6, 2023
Retail crypto trading fell off last year after FTX’s collapse, with Bitcoin sinking below $16,000.
According to JPMorgan Chase & Co., the FTX collapse coincided with more than just the crypto industry trading downturn. Day trading also declined in equity markets, with the share of retail investors in US stock volumes plunging 40% between early 2021 and end of 2022.
Lately, there are signs of a modest retail revival even as stocks have pulled back, with the S&P 500 down around 5% since July. From the first half to the ongoing second half, retail crypto volume as a percentage of total US volume on Bitstamp exchange rose from 33% to 35%, while globally it increased from 8% to 9%.
“The retail marketplace in a bear environment is generally quite sleepy,” Bitstamp USA CEO Bobby Zagotta told Bloomberg. “I feel like we are seeing some improvement here.”
Still Too Risky for Some
But for many former crypto day traders, this is not enough to draw them back in. Craig Murray, 23, who made almost $200,000 trading crypto before FTX’s collapse, decided the risks were too great.
“That kind of put me over the edge,” said Murray. “I just decided it wasn’t worth it. Why would I have my money in this space when there’s a chance that one day it could just all go away?”
Another sign that retail crypto trading isn’t approaching past heights is the weekday versus weekend volume ratio.
“It’s not unusual nowadays to see weekday trading volume average 50% higher values than weekend trading volume, whereas in the past this ratio was almost 1:1,” said Fredrick Collins, CEO of crypto data firm Velo Data.
For traders like Peter To seeking market inefficiencies, crypto’s directional trends make it less appealing. “In the early days, you would hunt for glitches to make money,” he said. “Now, if crypto goes up, you make money, and if it goes down, you lose. It’s more directional, which is a different game.”
While some hold onto crypto or even teach newcomers, many see it as too risky for most people. “A lot of people go into crypto thinking it’s going to be easy money,” said Murray. “Then they take bigger risks than they intended.”
So as Bitcoin rallies back, the former day traders who once fueled its volatility have largely moved on to less chaotic markets. The crypto industry may be maturing, but the early years of volatile swings and windfall profits are likely gone for good.