Bitcoin, Ether fall on U.S. economy worries, hawkish Fed comments on interest rates

Bitcoin and Ether fell Thursday morning in Asia, along with most other top 10 non-stablecoin cryptocurrencies on concerns about the direction of the U.S. economy and interest rates. Prices also lost ground overnight after the U.S. said it would take what it called “a major, international cryptocurrency enforcement action.” This turned out to involve the relatively market-underwhelming arrest of the Russian owner of Hong Kong-registered exchange Bitzlato Ltd., but prices didn’t recover.

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Fast facts

  • Bitcoin fell 2.2% to US$20,686 in the 24 hours to 8 a.m. in Hong Kong, though it is still up 18.6% over the past calendar week. Ether lost 3.4% to US$1,514 to cut its gains for the same week to 9.1%, according to data from CoinMarketCap.

  • Memecoin Shiba Inu jumped 6.2% to US$0.0000112, the only token in CoinMarketCap’s top 10 list by capitalization to rise, bringing its weekly gains to 22.4%. This momentum comes as investors await the release of the Ethereum-based layer 2 network Shibarium in coming weeks.

  • Solana fell 9% to US$27.16, posting the biggest losses in CoinMarketCap’s list, but it remains up 27.2% for the week and one of the best-performing tokens for 2023.

  • Polygon fell 5.5% to US$0.94, and Cardano lost 5.4% to US$0.32, in the second and third biggest losses after Solana.

  • The total crypto market capitalization over the 24 hours fell 2.4% to US$968.1 billion, while trading volume rose 28.5% to US$61.6 billion.

  • The U.S. Justice Department said it was charging Bitzlato Ltd. with money laundering related to US$700 million in cryptocurrencies and arrested its founder, Anatoly Legkodymov, in Miami. “Whether you break our laws from China or Europe or abuse our financial system from a tropical island — you can expect to answer for your crimes inside a United States courtroom,” Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco said at a news conference at the Justice Department, according to a Reuters report.

  • U.S. equities fell on Wednesday. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 1.8%, the S&P 500 slipped 1.6% and the Nasdaq Composite Index closed the day 1.2% lower. The declines came as the U.S. Commerce Department said retail sales fell 1.1% in December, matching the largest drop in a year, and surpassing the 0.8% decline economists had predicted to add to recession worries.

  • On top of this, St. Louis Federal Reserve President James Bullard said the Fed should not “stall” on raising interest rates to combat inflation until they are above 5%.

  • Last month, the Fed raised interest rates by 50-basis points to between 4.25% and 4.5%, the highest in 15 years. The next Fed meeting is Jan. 31 to Feb. 1, with analysts at the CME Group predicting a 94.2% chance of an increase of 25 basis points.

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