(Bloomberg) -- Most everyone knows that Bitcoin had a stellar two years when the pandemic broke out. But just about all of the coin’s gains since then have happened while US markets are closed.
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A strategy that buys the coin at the equity-market close -- at 4 p.m. in New York -- and sells it at the next day’s open -- at 9:30 a.m. -- would have yielded gains of roughly 270% going back to the start of 2020, according to Jake Gordon at Bespoke Investment Group. But doing the opposite -- buying it at the US market open and selling it at the close -- spits out negative returns.
“The bulk of Bitcoin’s gains have come outside of regular trading hours for US equities,” wrote Gordon in a note.
Cryptocurrencies trade 24/7 and the strategy is hypothetical, an attempt to showcase just how sensitive crypto markets are to moves in US equities. And it’s difficult to say why the trend might work this way, said Gordon, though it appears the correlation to equities is a big factor this year. “It’s a more risk-averse market. In other words, stocks and cryptos are higher up on the risk spectrum, thus have sold off hand in hand,” he said.
Bespoke recently found that Bitcoin has largely tended to move higher on weekends, when the stock market is closed, but that Monday through Friday, its intraday path looks much different: it trades flat before the market open, but declines as soon as trading commences. Bitcoin has long been a favorite of weekend traders, who can often benefit from lower levels of liquidity to generate bigger price swings.
Earlier: Bitcoin Falls When the US Market Opens, Pointing to Cash Raising
Analysts have been pointing out that the coin has moved in tandem with US equities this year, meaning that on days when stocks rise, the coin tends to advance as well, and vice versa. Both asset classes have been reacting to changes in Federal Reserve policy. The central bank has been raising interest rates to cool down growth and dampen inflation. The S&P 500 was up 0.2% as of 3:16 p.m. in New York on Monday, with Bitcoin adding 4.5% to trade around $31,280.
Still, the correlation to stocks may not explain why the trend of after-hours outperformance also existed when the market was rallying over the past two years, says Gordon. One explanation is that the post-close strategy covers a longer span of time, “meaning there is the potential for more news/catalysts to account for,” he said.
Meanwhile in 2022, a trader buying at the open and selling at the close would have lost 30%, Gordon found, while doing the opposite would have meant notching a loss of 8%.
(Updates story with additional comments on trading; updates prices.)
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