BTC’s $335 million options expiry has become a death trap for bulls, and increased legal action by the SEC and IRS against crypto companies is adding to the sell pressure.
Bitcoin (BTC) briefly broke above $25,000 on Aug. 15, but the excitement lasted less than an hour and was followed by a 5% retrace in the next five hours. The resistance level proved to be tougher than expected but may have given bulls false hope for the upcoming $335 million weekly options expiry.
Investors’ fleeting optimism reverted to a sellers’ market on Aug. 17 after BTC dumped and tested the $23,300 support. The negative move took place hours before the release of the Federal Open Markets Committee (FOMC) minutes from its July meeting. Investors expect some insights on whether the Federal Reserve will continue raising interest rates.
The negative newsflow accelerated on Aug. 16 after a federal court in the United States authorized the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to force cryptocurrency broker SFOX to reveal the transactions and identities of customers who are U.S. taxpayers. The same strategy was used to obtain information from Circle, Coinbase and Kraken between 2018 and 2021.
This movement explains why betting on Bitcoin price above $25,000 on Aug. 19 seemed like a sure thing a couple of days ago, and this would have incentivized bullish bets.
Bears didn’t expect BTC to move above $24,000
The open interest for the Aug. 19 options expiry is $335 million, but the actual figure will be lower since bears were overly-optimistic. These traders might have been fooled by the short-lived dump to $22,700 on Aug. 10 because their bets for Aug’s options expiry extend down to $15,000.
The 1.29 call-to-put ratio shows the difference between the $188 million call (buy) open interest and the $147 million put (sell) options. Currently, Bitcoin stands near $23,300, meaning most bullish bets are likely to become worthless.
If Bitcoin’s price moves below $23,000 at 8:00 am UTC on Aug. 19, only $1 million worth of these call (buy) options will be available. This difference happens because a right to buy Bitcoin at $23,000 is useless if BTC trades below that level on expiry.
There’s still hope for bulls, but $25,000 seems distant
Below are the three most likely scenarios based on the current price action. The number of options contracts available on Aug. 19 for call (bull) and put (bear) instruments varies, depending on the expiry price. The imbalance favoring each side constitutes the theoretical profit:
- Between $21,000 and $23,000: 30 calls vs. 2,770 puts. The net result favors the put (bear) instruments by $60 million.
- Between $23,000 and $25,000: 940 calls vs. 1,360 puts. The net result is balanced between bulls and bears.
- Between $25,000 and $26,000: 3,330 calls vs. 100 puts. The net result favors the call (bull) instruments by $80 million.
This crude estimate considers the put options used in bearish bets and the call options exclusively in neutral-to-bullish trades. Even so, this oversimplification disregards more complex investment strategies.
For example, a trader could have sold a put option, effectively gaining positive exposure to Bitcoin above a specific price, but unfortunately, there’s no easy way to estimate this effect.
Related: Former Goldman Sachs banker explains why Wall Street gets Bitcoin wrong
Bears will try to pin Bitcoin below $23,000
Bitcoin bulls need to push the price above $25,000 on Aug. 19 to profit $80 million. On the other hand, the bears’ best case scenario requires pressure below $23,000 to maximize their gains.
Bitcoin bulls just had $144 million in leveraged futures long positions liquidated on Aug. 16, so they should have less margin to drive the price higher. With this said, bears have the upper hand to suppress BTC below $23,000 ahead of the Aug. 19 options expiry.
The views and opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Cointelegraph. Every investment and trading move involves risk. You should conduct your own research when making a decision.