Bitcoin briefly drops to its lowest level in 3 months as risk assets continue to get crushed

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Ether has hugely outperformed bitcoin since both cryptocurrencies formed a bottom in June 2022. Ether’s superior gains have come as investors anticipate a major upgrade to the ethereum blockchain called “the merge.”
Yuriko Nakao | Getty Images

Bitcoin fell to its lowest level in three months on Monday as investors dumped risk assets amid expectations of higher interest rates.

The world’s largest cryptocurrency dropped as much as about 5% to hit an intraday low of $18,276, its lowest level since June 19. It was last down 2.9% at $19,166.00. Bitcoin is down 7.2% this month and on pace for the second straight negative month after plunging 15% in August.

“Regulatory pressure, rising base rates, and inflation are pressing heavily on riskier asset classes, especially crypto, and are thus forcing liquidations, reducing capital available for investment, and increasing concerns over undefined regulatory controls,” said Sadie Raney, co-founder and head of operations at Strix Leviathan. “These forces may mute the overall crypto complex until the financial system stabilizes and a regulatory framework becomes more clear.”

Ether also fell a similar 5% to $1,281 apiece Monday, hitting its lowest level since July 15. It was last lower by 1.9% at $1,354.86. It’s currently down 17% this month, on track to post its worst month since June.

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Risk assets have been under massive pressure as the Federal Reserve is expected to stick to its aggressive tightening schedule. The central bank is widely expected to approve this week a third consecutive 0.75 percentage point interest rate increase that would take benchmark rates up to a range of 3%-3.25%. 

“Retail buyers have a long term outlook on bitcoin while institutional traders are treating digital assets like tech stocks and adopting a short term mentality that’s contributing to the selloff we’re seeing,” said Chris Kline, chief revenue officer and co-founder of Bitcoin IRA. “The tightening policy at the Fed is strengthening the dollar and is weighing down risk assets, overall.”

So-called “whales” — institutions, miners, or other holders of large amounts of bitcoin, typically with more than 1,000 bitcoins in a wallet — have been hedging the macro condition and selling their coins since June, according to Julio Moreno, senior analyst at blockchain analytics firm CryptoQuant.

That’s evidenced by the increasing amount of coins being sent to exchanges and dumped onto retail investors, who believe bitcoin is finding a bottom at these levels, though it actually has further to go, he said.

CryptoQuant data shows bitcoin bottoming at between $10,000 and $14,500 this cycle.

CNBC’s Gina Francolla contributed to this report.

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