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Identifying crypto market cycles

Cracking the code of crypto market cycles: Understanding the patterns and trends that shape the volatile cryptocurrency market.

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While cryptocurrencies have been around for over a decade we continue to learn and observe new things in the market to this day. Over the years many trading patterns have been repeated, regulation has changed the nature of the game and of course, volatile price movements have played out.

While this sounds unpredictable and scary, it has also allowed trading analysts to observe the cyclical nature of these activities. This information allowed investors and customers to better understand the crypto market cycles, and more importantly, use them to their advantage. 

In this article, we'll show you how to not only understand the crypto market cycles but how to identify and use them to your advantage.

What are market cycles?

Reaching beyond the cryptocurrency market and across a wide range of assets, market cycles are no stranger to stocks, commodities, etc. They are regular occurrences and can be summarised as the stages in between the all-time high and the low of a market. Whether trading traditional stocks, money, or assets built on blockchain technology, market cycles are prevalent across the board.

The length of a market cycle can vary and will depend on what style of trading one is conducting (short term/long term) however they are always categorised by four main components. These phases in the cycle are categorized by the accumulation, markup, distribution, and markdown phases and will be outlined based on analysis and research below.

The four phases of a market cycle

1. Accumulation phase

This takes place when the market has reached a low and prices have flattened. While many view this as a negative stage in the market cycle, many others (particularly ones with experience in the crypto market) view it as a prime time to buy the asset. When traders accumulate the undervalued asset, this is referred to as "buying the dip" and is often a lucrative endeavour. 

These low price swings are often paired with a lot of indecision in the market as weak hands exit the market and long term traders enter it, representing a period of consolidation. This typically happens before an uptrend. The accumulation phase is over when the market sentiment moves from a negative stance to a neutral one. During this phase, a lot of money is both entering and leaving the market at the same time.

2. The markup phase

As the sentiment shifts, the market begins to climb and more stability takes shape. Typically more experienced traders will continue buying, further igniting the bullish trend, and in turn saturating the crypto's buying power. This will eventually fuel FOMO, drawing many buyers into the market and in turn pushing up the price. 

As the market greed increases and trading volumes spike, the markup phase will see high-profile investors begin to sell. This slows the price increases and causes a pullback in the market. As the accumulation phase saw a move from negative to neutral sentiments, the markup phase represents a shift from neutral to bullish to euphoria. 

3. Distribution phase

With the price reaching its peak, the mixture of sellers and buyers send the market into sideways trading. The sentiment is a combination of greed, fear and hope as some believe the market could spontaneously surge again. Typically, the distribution phase is coloured with many bullish price indicators such as head and shoulder trading patterns and double or triple tops, however, the sentiment will eventually shift to a negative space, easily triggered by bad news.

The distribution phase can take place over a short period of time, or last months on end, depending on the number of consolidations, breakouts, and pullbacks and is known to be the phase with the highest levels of volatility. The distribution phase will witness the sentiment turning negative.

4. The markdown phase

The markdown phase is the fourth and final phase in the market cycle and can be the most upsetting for inexperienced traders caught off guard. While some traders might sell at a loss, others maintain their positions looking to leverage a later phase of the next cycle.

The markdown phase sees a decline in price and is a strong indicator that a bottom is approaching. When the price reaches half of its peak value there is generally another mass sell-off, driving the downtrend further into the red. The sentiment is unequivocally negative. 

Example of a crypto market cycle

Looking at the Bitcoin network, many traders believe the cycles revolve around the halvings. Bitcoin halvings are when the miners' rewards for mining a new block are reduced by half, which takes place every 210,000 blocks (roughly every 4 years).

To date, three Bitcoin halvings have taken place, each one instigating a bull run in months to follow. The most recent halving took effect on 11 May 2020, when the BTC price was trading at $8,600. Just 7 months later the price reached $40,000 for the first time in history, setting off a string of all-time high records. To date, the highest Bitcoin price that has been reached is $68,789.63 in November 2021 but went on to lose 40% of its value over the next two months. 

Market cycles are based on the cryptocurrency's overall trading patterns and not on any exchange activity. In a perfect world, the cryptocurrency's trading patterns will reflect the four phases mentioned above in this set order, allowing a set amount of time between transitions.

With time, crypto customers will be able to identify these phases, allowing any individual to build strategies around when to open or close a position, leading to the best trade result. While there is still risk involved, understanding the data surrounding the cyclical nature of trading patterns will assist in getting the best out of a digital asset project.

Crypto supercycles

Crypto supercycles are a unique phenomenon in the blockchain industry. They involve price fluctuations across the entire crypto market, influenced by the increasing adoption of blockchain technology. This concept is more speculative than concrete, lacking well-defined parameters. It revolves around factors like the rise of institutional investors and retail adoption. Opinions vary regarding the existence of the supercycle (notably, Bitcoin's value has surged more than fivefold in a year). This market cycle stands out for its series of all-time highs, with minimal significant or lasting declines. Irrespective of the presence of a crypto supercycle, individuals can consider capitalizing on the market cycle by purchasing Bitcoin during the accumulation phase as prices gain traction after hitting a low point.

For those keen on comprehending crypto trading cycles, it's prudent to formulate a personal strategy for navigating diverse market cycles, as mentioned earlier. Analyzing market trends and patterns has the potential to be rewarding. While some individuals pursue day trading and financial services as a full-time occupation, studying the markets and their behaviors can in some instance also be a profitable part-time pursuit.


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