Bitcoin Endured a Rocky Day. What's Behind the Selloff.


It should have been a happy day for Bitcoin, but it’s turned into a rout.

Bitcoin (ticker: BTC) was trading was around $47,000 on Tuesday afternoon, down 9% in the last 24 hours, after dipping down to $42,900 this morning. Bitcoin had been above $52,800 before the selloff.

Other cryptos were also ailing, including Ethereum (ETH), down 12% to $3,460.

The selloff may reflect profit-taking after prices started rising in late July. Bitcoin had gained more than 50% since late July when it traded around $34,000. Ethereum has also been flying, following a technical upgrade in its underlying blockchain network.

The down day may also reflect a “sell the news” dynamic after El Salvador became the first country to adopt Bitcoin as legal tender, alongside the dollar– the country’s other official currency.

Merchants in El Salvador are now supposed to accept Bitcoin for goods and services. Citizens have been promised $30 worth of Bitcoin in their digital wallets by the government. McDonald’s has started accepting Bitcoin in El Salvador, according to Reuters. And the government of president Nayib Bukele has been buying Bitcoin, including at least $20 million worth, ahead of the official launch.

But El Salvador’s crypto experiment isn’t sitting well with organizations like the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, which have warned El Salvador that its adoption as legal tender could imperil financial stability. Other countries are cracking down on crypto transactions, mining, and exchanges, indicating that El Salvador may be an outlier for now.

Crypto watchers are also blaming technical factors for the market downturn. Assuming prices don’t suddenly surge, Bitcoin is now in for “outside-down” day, says Katie Stockton, founder and managing partner of Fairlead Strategies, a crypto-trading research firm. The means Bitcoin is trading in a wider range and headed for a lower close than yesterday (assuming a 5 p.m. cutoff, though it trades 24 hours).

“The implications are for additional consolidation,” she says. So far, the selloff looks like a minor setback, she adds, since Bitcoin hasn’t breached its 50-day moving average around $44,000, which is its next support level.

“A breach of $44,000 isn’t a breakdown,” she says. “It’s a test of the 50-day moving average. “There is strong support for Bitcoin and most crytpos pretty close to their current lows.”

Other factors that may have contributed to the selloff include reports of outages and “unscheduled maintenance” at Bitfinix, a leading crypto exchange. Coinbase Global (ticker: COIN) also experienced a spike in outages around noon, according to Downdetector.

Even if prices stabilize from here, it’s a reminder that Bitcoin and other cryptos remain vulnerable to rapid-fire declines. While you may be able to buy a Big Mac with a sliver of Bitcoin in San Salvador, you may be better off keeping it in your digital wallet–or not–depending on the time of day.

Write to Daren Fonda at

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