Fish food? Data shows retail investors are buying Bitcoin, whales are selling

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Bitcoin (BTC) staged an impressive recovery after dropping to its three-month low of $42,333 on Dec. 4, rising to as high as $51,000 since. 

The BTC price retracement primarily surfaced due to increased buying activity among addresses that hold less than 1 BTC. In contrast, the Bitcoin wallets with balances between 1,000 BTC  and 10,000 BTC did little in supporting the upside move, data collected by Ecoinometrics showed.

“Bitcoin is still stuck in a situation where small addresses are willing to stack sats [the smallest unit account of Bitcoin], while the whale addresses aren’t really accumulating,” the crypto-focused newsletter noted after assessing the change in Bitcoin amounts across small and rich wallet groups, as shown in the graph below.

Bitcoin on-chain data featuring fish and whale BTC wallet clusters. Source: Ecoinometrics 

Ecoinometrics further asserted that the situation for Bitcoin is “not ideal,” suggesting that the BTC price may end up resuming its decline in the absence of influential buyers.

Bitcoin’s downside target sits near $42K

Ecoinometrics’ bearish outlook appeared as Bitcoin grappled with the Federal Reserve’s policy decision on Wednesday to reduce its bond purchases by $30 billion every month to unwind them down by April next year entirely.

The $120 billion a month stimulus program was instrumental in sending the BTC price from below $4,000 in March 2020 to $69,000 in Nov 2021. And now that the liquidity threatens to go away, with lending to become costlier as the Fed prepares for three rate hikes next year, many fear that it would hurt investors’ appetite for risk assets like Bitcoin.

Mike Novogratz, chief executive officer of Galaxy Digital Holdings, admitted that Bitcoin might feel “pain ahead” but anticipated that its price would not fall anywhere beyond the $42,000-support.

“$42,000 is at a pretty important level, and low 40s should hold,” the crypto billionaire told Bloomberg TV in an interview Tuesday, adding:

“So much money is pouring into the space, it would make no sense that the crypto prices would go much below that. If you’re long, it feels painful, but it’s probably healthy.”

BTC/USD daily price chart showing $40K-42K support. Source: TradingView

Bitcoin accumulation stronger among retail

In reality, unique wallets holding more than or equal to 1,000 BTC have been declining all across 2021, with data from Glassnode showing its number dropping to 2,147 from 2,475 since Feb. 9.

The total number of Bitcoin addresses with at least 1,000 BTC balance. Source: Glassnode

In contrast, the number of unique wallets holding at least 0.01 BTC (around $485 at current exchange rates) rose in 2021, from 8.46 million to 9.39 million year-to-date.

Meanwhile, addresses holding at least 0.1 BTC (~$4,855) surged from 3.12 million to 3.30 million in the same period, indicating that “fishes” played a key role in pumping the Bitcoin price from around $30,000 to as high as $69,000 this year.

The total number of Bitcoin addresses with at least 0.01 BTC and 0.1 BTC balance. Source: Glassnode

One more piece of evidence showing that retail investors have been bullish on Bitcoin, came from addresses that hold at least 1 BTC.

Related: Analysts expect Bitcoin trend change after Fed lays out its 2022 roadmap

These wallets decreased in quantity in the first half of 2021 as the BTC market grappled with the China ban and other negative news, but started increasing the second half as El Salvador adopted Bitcoin as its legal tender.

The total number of Bitcoin addresses with at least 1 BTC balance. Source: Glassnode

The number of Bitcoin wallets with at least 1 BTC also kept rising during the BTC price correction from $69,000 to $42,333 in the November-December session, signaling accumulation. It reached a seven-month high on Wednesday just as Bitcoin underwent a rebound to $50,000 from its weekly low near $46,000.

On-chain analyst Willy Woo also spotted retail accumulation rising to levels seen after the March 2020 crash, which led to Bitcoin’s two-year-long bull run.

Accumulation among wallets holding less than 1 BTC. Source: WIlly Woo

Additionally, Bitcoin’s momentum indicator that preceeded its price breakout to $69,000 earlier this year is also hinting at a potential BTC price breakout ahead.

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