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Bitcoin Holds Near $29K as Investors Weigh Rate Increases, Banking Contagion

Bitcoin (BTC) spent much of Thursday quietly hovering a little below $29,000, roughly where it’s stood for much of the past 10 days, as investors weighed U.S. and European central bank interest rate increases and the latest debacles in a mushrooming bank crisis.

The largest cryptocurrency by market capitalization was recently trading at around $28,800, down 0.3% in the past 24 hours, according to CoinDesk data. BTC slid below $29,000 Thursday morning as U.S. stock markets opened, and remained between $28,700 and $29,000.

Bitcoin price chart showed that the cryptocurrency's price hovered around $28,800 on Thursday. (CoinDesk)
Bitcoin price chart showed that the cryptocurrency's price hovered around $28,800 on Thursday. (CoinDesk)

Ether (ETH), the second-largest cryptocurrency by market capitalization, followed a similar pattern and was changing hands around $1,877, down 0.6% from Wednesday, same time. Prices of major cryptos moved little over the course of the day. Litecoin’s LTC token recently was trading almost flat at around $87.8 while Solana’s SOL token slid roughly 0.8% to trade at $21.70.

The CoinDesk Market Index (CMI), which measures overall crypto market performance, was up 0.3% for the day.

Equity markets struggled with the S&P 500, Wall Street's benchmark equity index, closing down 0.7% Thursday. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) and the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite slid 0.8% and 0.4%, respectively.

Stocks of several regional banks tanked, including those of Los Angeles-based PacWest Bancorp (PACW) dropping 50% Thursday afternoon and Phoenix-based Western Alliance Bancorporation (WAL) falling 38%. Investors fretted over bank sector contagion, which began in mid-March with the collapse of three banks, including Silicon Valley (SVB) and Signature.

PacWest is weighing its options, including a possible sale. Western Alliance denied a report that it’s for sale.

In bond markets, the note on the two-year Treasury yield – ​a gauge of near-term interest rate expectations – fell 15 basis points to 3.78%, close to its lowest mark this year. The 10-year Treasury yield also slid roughly 2 basis points to sit around 3.37%.

“The financial crisis that we seem to be sleepwalking into will almost certainly become real,” Anthony Georgiades, co-founder of decentralized layer 1 blockchain Pastel Network, wrote in an email to CoinDesk.

“Banks will struggle even more now given that the yield curves are so incredibly inverted," he said. "And, ultimately, this will likely force the [U.S. Federal Reserve] into urgent rate cuts and a return to something akin to quantitative easing – or else the economy and the banking itself will be in deep, deep trouble." He added that the latter scenario could buoy BTC.

Edward Moya, senior market analyst for foreign exchange Oanda, wrote in a Thursday note that BTC “isn’t seeing the same amount of flows as it did early during all the banking drama with SVB.”

“It is getting very ugly for financials and that should spell trouble for the broader economy,” Moya wrote. “Bitcoin appears anchored until it gets regulatory clarity.”