Distributed Ledger: NFT frenzy seems to be cooling off. Here’s why some investors remain bullish

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Hello! Welcome back to Distributed Ledger, our weekly crypto newsletter that reaches your inbox every Thursday. I’m Frances Yue, crypto reporter at MarketWatch, and I’ll walk you through the latest and greatest in digital assets this week so far.

Find me on Twitter at @FrancesYue_ to send feedback or tell us what you think we should cover.

Crypto in a snap

Bitcoin
BTCUSD,
+3.70%

gained 5% over the past seven days, recently trading at around $44,039, according to CoinDesk data. Ether
ETHUSD,
+4.13%

is up 9% over the seven-day stretch to around $3,117. Meme token Dogecoin
DOGEUSD,
+5.80%

logged a 14.4% gain while another dog-themed token Shiba Inu
SHIBUSD,
1.82

is trading up 9.3% from seven days ago.

Crypto Metrics

Biggest Gainers

Price

% 7-day return

Ethereum Classic

$44.80

63.7%

ApeCoin

$13.39

57.2%

Loopring

$1.05

47.2%

Mina Protocol

$2.60

41.4%

Cardano

$1.16

39%

Source: CoinGecko as of March.24

Biggest Decliners

Price

% 7-day return

JUNO

$30.22

-24.1%

ECOMI

$0.002

-18.6%

Osmosis

$8.7

-7.8%

The Graph

$0.43

-5.3%

Arweave

$32.97

-3.5%

Source: CoinGecko as of March.24

A cooling NFT market?

Trading volumes of NFT, or non-fungible tokens, has been sharply lower than it was at its high in January.  

The average daily transaction volume on OpenSea, the largest NFT marketplace, stands at about 80 million so far on Ethereum in March, down more than 55% from January, according to crypto data tracking platform Dune Analytics. 

“I think that early on, you saw lots of new entrants who were enthusiastic about this, but didn’t necessarily have a grasp of the fundamentals and I think the cooling is a reflection of that,” Jordan Birnholtz, co-founder at NFT marketplace Neon told Distributed Ledger in an interview. 

However, such cooling could be positive for the market in the long term, according to Birnholtz. “Because people are developing more realistic expectations for what the technology can do.”

Still, some investors said the NFT space may open up some investing opportunities as it showed some resilience during the crypto market downturn. “Since the beginning of the year, imagine you have a portfolio that was 50% in each of bitcoin and ether, the portfolio would be down about 17%,” said Greg King, founder and chief executive at digital asset investment firm Osprey Funds. 

However, “if you take an NFT portfolio with just let’s say the top two projects, CryptoPunks and Bored Ape (Yacht Club) with 50% each, the portfolio would be up 6% year to date,” King said in an interview this week.

Though it has yet to be proved as a long-term trend, “these are interesting situations because you can see that NFTs display a slight dislocation on the positive basis to the typical crypto performance year to date,” according to King. 

Ben McMillan, founder and chief investment officer at IDX Digital Assets, said though such “blue-chip” NFT projects outperformed the whole crypto market, he would not recommend investors to view NFT as a “flight to safety.”

Liquidity is one of the constraining factors, McMillan said. He also pointed to the prevalence of wash trading, which refers to the scenario when an owner “sells” an NFT to another wallet that they also control, to make their NFT appear more valuable.

Wall street’s crypto push?

Goldman Sachs
GS,
+0.30%

executed its first over-the-counter crypto options trade, according to a statement on Monday. The trade was facilitated by crypto investment management firm Galaxy Digital.

Bridgewater Associates, the world’s largest hedge fund, is reportedly planning to back a crypto fund for the first time. The hedge fund founded by billionaire Ray Dalio is preparing to invest in an external vehicle, while it currently does not have any plans to invest directly in crypto assets itself, CoinDesk reported. 

BlackRock
BLK,
+0.60%
,
the world’s largest asset manager is studying digital currencies, stablecoins and the underlying technologies as the firm saw increasing interest from clients, Larry Fink, chairman of the world’s largest asset manager BlackRock, wrote in a letter to shareholders on Thursday.

Crypto companies, funds

Shares of Coinbase Global Inc.
COIN,
+4.32%

traded up 4.3% to $191.06 Thursday afternoon. It was up 7.7% for the past five trading sessions. Michael Saylor’s MicroStrategy Inc.
MSTR,
+6.51%

jumped 5.9% on Thursday to $477.43, while it has gained 10% over the past five days.

Mining company Riot Blockchain Inc.
RIOT,
+3.02%

shares rose 2.3% to $21.31, and it was up 15.5% over the past five days. Shares of Marathon Digital Holdings Inc.
MARA,
+3.01%

were up 2.4% to $29.95, with a 12.5% gain over the past five days. Another miner, Ebang International Holdings Inc.
EBON,
+5.51%
,
traded 4% higher at $1.39, with a 22.6% gain over the past five days.

Overstock.com Inc.
OSTK,
-0.27%

edged 0.3% lower to $48.91. The shares have declined 6.3% over the five-session period.

Block Inc.
SQ,
+0.10%
’s
shares, formally known as Square, remained unchanged at $135.4, with a 5.9% gain for the week. Tesla Inc.
TSLA,
+1.23%
’s
shares are up 0.7% to $1005.74 while its shares surged 15.4% for the past five sessions.

PayPal Holdings Inc.
PYPL,
+0.17%

gained 0.3% to $114.94, while it recorded a 2.5% gain over the five-session stretch. Nvidia Corp.
NVDA,
+10.19%

jumped 8.5% to $278.08, while was looking at a 12.3% gain over the past five trading days.

Advanced Micro Devices Inc.
AMD,
+5.39%

gained 4.4% to $118.94 as of Thursday afternoon, while it rose 6.4% from five trading days ago.

Among crypto funds, ProShares Bitcoin Strategy ETF
BITO,
+4.33%

gained 4.6% to $27.73 Thursday, while Valkyrie Bitcoin Strategy ETF
BTF,
+4.26%

was up 4.7% to $17.19. VanEck Bitcoin Strategy ETF
XBTF,
+4.94%

advanced 4.6% to $43.42.

Grayscale Bitcoin Trust
GBTC,
+6.43%

was trading at $30.18, up 5.5% Thursday afternoon.

Must Reads

Fed Chair Powell: New rules will be needed for crypto (Yahoo Finance)

Katie Haun’s Crypto Venture Capital Funds Break Records (the Wall Street Journal)

Ukrainian refugee flees to Poland with $2,000 in bitcoin on a USB drive (CNBC)

Silvergate Aims to Be a Crypto Bank. Wall Street Loves the Idea and the Stock. (Barron’s)

GameStop’s Crypto Dreams Are a Long Shot. What Are NFTs Even Worth? (Barron’s)

Crypto-SPAC Deals Pile Up as Already-Listed Trio Outpace (Bloomberg)

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