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Crypto is the new stock market, as both tank after Putin invades Ukraine

February 24, 2022, 8:37 PM UTC

Putin’s invasion of Ukraine was immediately devastating to stock markets, but cryptocurrency investors also took a hit after Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Solana followed the market’s Thursday downturn.

The close relationship between cryptocurrency and the stock market, once thought to be separate, is becoming increasingly clear, and the Ukraine conflict is the latest indicator that digital currencies like Bitcoin are not insulated from the real world.

Stock markets around the world tumbled Thursday morning after news broke that Russia had invaded Ukraine, and uncertainty pushed many investors to move their money to safer places. When trading opened Thursday morning, all three major U.S. stocks fell by more than 2%, compounded by a surge in prices for a number of commodities including oil, wheat, and steel.

Skittish investors have historically relied on stable assets like gold in times of precariousness and war, but crypto advocates have maintained that cryptocurrency’s ability to separate itself from financial markets makes it perfect to invest in when other markets are volatile, with some even calling Bitcoin “digital gold.”

But gold is doing very well right now, while Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are plunging even faster than the stock market.

Crypto’s overall market value went down nearly 8% Thursday, eliminating over $150 billion within 24 hours. Several currencies, such as Solana and Shiba Inu, fell by as much as 10%. 

In a Twitter post, Sam Bankman-Fried, founder and CEO of major cryptocurrency exchange FTX, said that algorithmic trading of cryptocurrency is a big reason behind the drop. Algorithmic crypto trading relies on predetermined instructions for programs to trade cryptocurrencies. These programs tend to be reliant on existing data, taking cues from how stock markets are moving. And right now, the Ukraine crisis is making every investor sell and all stock markets point downward, leading to a drop for crypto commensurate with the dives of more traditional financial assets. 

Bitcoin and traditional stocks have been moving in tandem with each other for a while now. The stock market’s poor start to 2022 was accompanied by an equally bad dip for Bitcoin, as Federal Reserve policies, such as higher interest rates, have played a part in encouraging selloffs of both digital and real-world assets.

And as more and more major banks begin offering digital asset lending services, cryptocurrency is becoming increasingly tied up with the performance of major indexes and more mainstream financial assets.

“Prior to the pandemic, Bitcoin and other digital assets showed low correlations to traditional financial market variables—in effect, crypto behaved as an entirely different ecosystem,” Zach Pandl, co-head of foreign exchange strategy at Goldman Sachs, told the Financial Times in January. 

“But over the last two years, as Bitcoin has seen wider mainstream adoption, its correlation with macro assets has picked up.”

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