Bitcoin Price Falls Below $20,000

Bitcoin price fell below the key psychological level of $20,000 as a sharp sell-off in cryptocurrencies deepened.

Bitcoin momentarily fell to $18,739.50 and remained below $20,000 on Saturday, according to CoinDesk, losing 72% of its value from its November high. Concerns over Federal Reserve actions to rein in higher-than-expected inflation have pushed stocks and cryptocurrencies into a bear market. Big names in the industry, including Coinbase Global Inc.,

the largest cryptocurrency exchange in the United States, recently announced job cuts.

“It will be very painful for many investors,” said Yuya Hasegawa, market analyst at Japanese crypto exchange Bitbank Inc. People will lose faith in the crypto market as a whole, but seasoned crypto investors and those who believe in its long-term prospects will see an opportunity to buy at discounted prices, he said.

Ether, another major cryptocurrency, fell below $1,000, briefly hitting $975.35 on Saturday, according to CoinDesk, its lowest level since January 2021.

Bitcoin’s fall from its all-time high of $67,802 in November contributed to an estimated $2 trillion wipeout in the broader market. Crypto’s total market capitalization, which peaked in November at nearly $3 trillion, stood at around $840 billion on Saturday, its lowest since January 2021, according to data provider CoinMarketCap.

Bitcoin traded around the $30,000 mark for most of May before falling again in June after another inflationary shock and concerns over rising US interest rates. Investors offloaded assets considered risky, such as cryptocurrencies and tech stocks.

Individual investors have been receiving margin calls, with around $260 million in collateral pledged by around 80,000 retail traders liquidated in the past 24 hours, according to data provider CoinGlass. That compares to $1 billion earlier this week.

A growing number of previously high-flying crypto firms have felt the pain of what has been dubbed a “crypto winter.” Cryptocurrency lender Babel Finance told clients on Friday it was suspending redemptions and withdrawals of all products, citing “unusual liquidity pressures.” One of the biggest crypto lenders, Celsius Network LLC, did not let users withdraw funds for about a week, citing extreme market conditions.

Cryptocurrency-focused hedge fund Three Arrows Capital Ltd. has hired legal and financial advisors to help find a solution for its investors and lenders after it suffered heavy losses from a market sell-off of digital assets, the company’s founders told the Wall Street Journal.

The surge in cryptocurrency valuations over the past two years has been helped by investments from big-name companies such as Tesla Inc.

and a period of lower interest rates during the pandemic that encouraged individuals stuck at home to buy riskier assets in the hope of higher returns.

The interest rate increases currently being enacted by the Fed come at a time when blowouts in some crypto projects have rippled through the ecosystem. So-called stablecoin TerraUSD broke its $1 peg last month following intense selling pressure, leaving it and its original sister cryptocurrency Luna now nearly worthless. As its developers sought to defend TerraUSD’s peg, they sold reserves of bitcoin, depressing the price of it and other assets.

More recently, crypto investors have been concerned about a derivative of the cryptocurrency ether that is stalled until the Ethereum network switches to a less energy-intensive model. The so-called Lido staked ether recently traded at a lower price than the ether itself.

“Crypto has enough problems. He doesn’t need the macro,” said Noelle Acheson, head of market insights at crypto lender Genesis Global Trading, in reference to rising interest rates and inflation concerns.

Write to Elaine Yu at elaine.yu@wsj.com and Caitlin Ostroff at caitlin.ostroff@wsj.com

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