Why is the crypto market down today?

The crypto market is down today, as market volatility increases ahead of the Feb. 1 Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting and a slew of negative news events weigh on Bitcoin, Ether and altcoin prices.

After jumping to new highs for 2023, Bitcoin (BTC) and Ether (ETH) retraced a portion of their recent gains.The primary downside catalyst appears to be investors’ apprehension over the upcoming FOMC decision on interest rates and similar pullbacks are also being seen across the stock market which is down.

After the Jan. 18 announcement that the United States Department of Justice levied enforcement action against Bitzlato and ramped-up pressure on certain players in the crypto sector, Binance started to block certain users’ accounts.

Cryptocurrency market performance, daily timeframe: Coin360

After initially benefiting from a Consumer Price Index (CPI) print which showed inflation slowing beyond expectations in December 2022, crypto and stock prices began to cool as retail data missed expectations and earnings diminished.

U.S. stocks drop ahead of the FOMC

Crypto prices are still highly correlated with the Dow and S&P 500. As mentioned earlier, macro and crypto markets rallied after a better than expected CPI report, but lingering concerns about the health of the U.S. and global economy resurfaced after reported earnings showed a slowdown in corporate profits and consumer demand. 

Most major banks still expect the U.S. to experience a sharp recession at some point in 2023.

According to U.S. Bank data, there is more pain to come in the economy:

“Inflation, interest rates and earnings remain key to equity returns. At present, inflation remains elevated, interest rates are rising and consensus earnings projections for 2023 are trending lower.”

Global economic health. Source: U.S. Bank

U.S. crackdown with unclear regulations ripples through the crypto market

The cryptocurrency industry and regulators have a long history of not getting along either due to various misconceptions or mistrust over the actual use case of digital assets. 

On Jan. 18, the US Department of Justice shuttered Russian exchange, Bitzlato and the initial announcement from the DOJ suggested that strong actions would be taken against the crypto sector, but the message was not specific.

On Jan. 30, the top centralized exchange (CEX) by volume, Binance, decided to block some accounts due to the investigation into Bitzlato. While Binance says “funds are safe”, FinCEN listed Binance as among the top Bitcoin counterparties of Bitzlato.

Without a working framework for crypto sector regulation, different countries and states have a plethora of conflicting policies on how cryptocurrencies are classified as assets and precisely what constitutes a legal payment system.

The lack of clarity on this matter weighs on growth and innovation within the sector, and many analysts believe that the mainstreaming of cryptocurrencies cannot happen until a more universally agreed upon set of laws is enacted.

While the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) has called for clearer regulation, the pace of these changes is unknown. The Biden Administration released a roadmap for cryptocurrencies which suggests preventing pension funds from investing into high risk investments.

Risk assets are heavily impacted by investor sentiment, and this trend extends to Bitcoin and altcoins. To date, the threat of unfriendly cryptocurrency regulation or, in the worst case, an outright ban continues to impact crypto prices on a nearly monthly basis.

Regulators have recently turned their eyes to Gemini and Digital Currency Group over the Earn program which can further hinder the crypto market. The trial of former FTX CEO, Sam Bankman-Fried may also set a negative precedent against cryptocurrencies.

Taking profit after Bitcoin’s 44% monthly rally 

Bitcoin and the crypto market have witnessed a strong start to 2023, seeing 64% of BTC investors reach profitability as BTC price reached $24,000 on Jan. 29. Even struggling Bitcoin miners saw massive growth, with revenues rising by 50% to $23 million signaling a recovery for the beleaguered industry. 

While Bitcoin is currently on pace for the best January performance since 2013, the volatility caused by the FOMC may change the results. With Bitcoin and Ether posting January gains of 40% and 32% respectively, some investors may begin locking in profits ahead of the U.S. tax season.

Related: LTC, AVAX, APT and FTM prepare to rally as Bitcoin price targets $24K

Top crypto investors believe more sell-offs are on the horizon and Bitcoin analysts push warnings of the long-term downtrend continuing. There is a CME futures “gap” below $20,000, and some traders expect BTC price to retrace to this level at some point in the future.

In the meantime, investors’ appetite for risk is likely to remain muted, and potential crypto traders might consider waiting for signs that U.S. inflation has peaked, or for the Fed to signal that smaller-sized interest rate hikes are on the cards. A more transparent roadmap for crypto industry regulation would also help to improve sentiment across the sector.