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Bitcoin Slides Below $24.5K as European Banking Woes Spook Investors

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Bitcoin slid below $24,500 as investors weighed a potential European banking meltdown triggered by concerns about often-embattled Credit Suisse.

The largest cryptocurrency by market capitalization dropped to $23,946 at one point before regaining ground to recently trade at $24,502, roughly flat over the 24 hours. But that was still well off BTC's highs of the previous day when it soared past $26,000 after the release of a mildly upbeat consumer price index (CPI) inflation data for February. The 6% CPI improved on the previous month’s reading and offered investors looking for more monetary policy dovishness hope the U.S. Federal Reserve would at least temporarily stop its recent diet of interest rate hikes.

On Wednesday, banking troubles trumped monetary policy considerations.

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Shares of the Swiss banking giant Credit Suisse (CS), which has been rocked by scandals over the past year and posted losses for five consecutive quarters, tanked on Wednesday after the bank’s largest investor, Saudi National Bank, said it wouldn’t invest capital beyond the $1.5 billion it sank into the bank last year. Saudi National Bank owns a stake of up to 9.9%.

The Swiss National Bank seemed to at least temporarily halt the damage after announcing it would provide CS with liquidity “if necessary,” and rejecting the notion that contagion tied to the failure of two, large U.S. regional banks over the past week had spread overseas.

Credit Suisse shares tumbled 13%, as did several European banking stocks including French banks BNP Paribas (BNP.PA) and Société Générale (GLE:FP), down by 8% and 10%, respectively. European markets tumbled as investors in riskier assets grew skittish.

Bitcoin price (CoinDesk/Highcharts.com)
Bitcoin price (CoinDesk/Highcharts.com)

U.S. equity markets initially tumbled on the banking news coming from Europe before recovering some of their losses. The S&P 500 and Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) dropped 0.7% and 0.8%, respectively. But the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite rose 0.05%.

Regional banking stocks also plunged, with First Republic Bank (FRC) and PacWest Bancorp (PACW) falling 21% and 13%, respectively.

“Credit Suisse is a bigger story than Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) and this has Wall Street extremely nervous,” ​​Edward Moya, senior market analyst at foreign exchange market maker Oanda, wrote in a Wednesday email. “Bitcoin’s decline isn’t that bad when you consider how much pressure is hitting stocks, oil prices and the euro.”

While banking turmoil could ultimately become a bullish moment for bitcoin, “for now crypto weakness is justified,” Moya added.

Meanwhile, the CME FedWatch Tool showed that currently around 55% of traders believe the Fed will not raise interest rates at its next Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting starting March 22. An additional 45% expect the Fed to boost the rate by 25 basis points (bps), a stark change from a week ago when an increasing number of observers felt the Fed would increase the rate by 50 bps.

Will Tamplin, a senior analyst at technical analysis-based research firm Fairlead Strategies, said BTC's resistance is strong near $25,200, while tackling “intermediate-term overbought conditions in place that have become a headwind."

“This increases short-term downside risk to support from the 200-day [moving average] (~$19,800),” Tamplin told CoinDesk in an email.

Ether (ETH), the second-largest cryptocurrency, was hovering around $1,656 Wednesday afternoon, down 2.4% from Tuesday, same time. HNT, the native token of the decentralized wireless communication network Helium, recently tumbled 13% to trade near $2 Wednesday, its lowest level in two months. The decline came after Binance.US said it would delist the cryptocurrency on March 21.

The CoinDesk Market Index, which measures overall crypto market performance, was down roughly 3% for the day.