When is Bitcoin Most Volatile?

A user made a search on this site a few days ago wondering “what time of day is bitcoin most volatile?”

I’ll attempt to answer this question below, and if you have your own questions about cryptocurrencies, bitcoin trading, or related topics, please use the contact form on this site, or reply to this or other posts, and I’ll do my best to provide an answer.

It’s nearly impossible to tell what time of day the bitcoin price is most volatile. Since bitcoin is traded on a number of different exchanges around the world, against multiple fiat and cryptocurrencies, we would need to build a program able to get the data and run some statistical analysis to determine an empirical answer.  I suggest pulling data from a number of exchanges using their APIs, and putting this data into a statistical program: even excel will do. You can use the data to try to determine when standard deviation is the highest, etc. There is probably not a single answer, but the data will help you determine an answer that’s helpful to you, so that you can apply this data to improve your own trading process.

There are some other measures of bitcoin volatility to keep in mind. Check out The Bitcoin Volatility Index bitvol.info for a measure of historical volatility. I also think the numbers calculated by Deribit based on their options market are your best source to determine implied volatility.

When thinking about volatility, it’s important to recognize the different types of volatility. Historical volatility, also referred to as “statistical volatility” or “realized volatility”, measures volatility of an underlying by calculating standard deviation over specific periods of time. In comparison, “implied volatility” measures the future expectation of volatility. To calculate implied volatility, use an options pricing model such as Black-Scholes to solve for the volatility variable (this can be done in excel), or use a web based option price calculator.

Trading Clam Coins

CLAM coins are a cryptocurrency based on a proof-of-stake mining method. One new CLAM coin is generated each minute and awarded to users by proportional lottery based on the number of CLAMs they have working on their miner. This means there will be 60 new CLAMs created per hour, 1,440 created per day, and 525,600 CLAMs created each year.

The value of each CLAM simply depends on the interaction of supply and demand; there is no central authority that controls the value of CLAMs and their price is completely up to markets. Since their inception, the value of CLAMs has generally been rising against the US & Canadian dollars much like most other crypto currencies. CLAM users can consult blockchain explorers to check addresses, monitor transactions, etc, and can view the market cap of CLAMs on sites such as CoinMarketCap. At the time of writing, there are about 2.7 million CLAMs outstanding worth about $20,000,000 US dollars.

To get into the CLAM economy, the first thing you should do is buy some CLAMS; since CLAMs are based on proof-of-stake, you can’t mine any CLAMs without first having some CLAMs to stake.

To buy CLAMs, the first step is to get some bitcoins. If you’re Canadian or American, use QuadrigaCX since you can make Canadian dollar deposits using Interac online and then exchange Canadian dollars for bitcoins. For Americans, try a service such as Coinbase.

Once you have your bitcoins, you have a few choices. If you want to trade your bitcoins for CLAMs, you can find 77% of the volume for CLAMs on Poloniex and the balance of volume on Bittrex.  If you are a little wary about using exchanges, you can also use a service such as ShapeShift. At the time of writing Changelly does not offer CLAMs.

If you really want to mine CLAMs, check out my friend’s post on github describing how to set up your own miner.

In my opinion, Poloniex is the best place to trade CLAMs. The market is fairly liquid, but it jumps around enough (this is CLAM coins after-all) that there are opportunities for traders. But keep in mind that you can really only trade the CLAM/BTC pair: there is no other markets for CLAMs to fiat other than private sales between friends, so unless your friends are really into trading CLAMs, it’s probably best to trade on Poloniex.

The nice feature about trading CLAMs on Poloniex is you can both borrow and lend CLAMs. This means you can jack up your leverage at pretty cheap rates. At the time of writing, you can borrow bitcoins against CLAMs for less than 0.001% per day, and you can borrow CLAMs for less than 0.001%. You can also get some pretty cheap leverage on Poloniex.

At the time of writing, here is the current bid/ask spread on both Poloniex and Bittrex:

Poloniex 0.00047464 bid / 0.00047500 ask

Bittrex 0.00047483 bid / 0.00048195 ask

So you can see the bid/ask spread is much tighter on Poloniex, representing their greater volume/liquidity, but interestingly, there is more than a 1% gap between the bid/offer for CLAM/BTC on Bittrex. This presents an opportunity for traders who can arbitrage the different prices between exchanges. The fees on Bittrex are 0.25% per trade, so there is certainly an opportunity for some market making using a bot. Here is a link to Bittrex API documentation.

One funny thing to be aware of when trading CLAMs: since the market is only worth about $20 mil USD in total, and more than half of those CLAMs are tied up on just-dice, the trading for CLAMs can be cornered in an old fashioned way. This happened a few months ago on Poloniex. My friend and I noticed the lending/borrowing rate for CLAMs on Poloniex jumped very high, over 1% per day, much higher than the mining rate, so we moved a few CLAMs to the exchange to lend them out. It looked bullish for CLAMs at the time as the market was well bid. A few weeks went by, and the price of CLAMs kept rising. All of a sudden the market fell out, and the price crashed by half in a few hours. We suspect a small number of traders were borrowing CLAMs at high rates (thereby getting short CLAMs in the process) and feeding the order book with stink bids, and then as they pulled their bids and started selling their CLAMs, the bottom fell out (into air pocket).

The lesson from this experience is to beware when margin interest rates move dramatically: when you wonder what is happening, and you don’t have what you believe is the answer, take it slow. Move with caution, or, if you’re super bold, take the opposite position and help bring the market back in line.

Deribit Options Trading Tail Risks

Deribit is a crypto-derivatives site featuring bitcoin futures and bitcoin options. Its a pretty cool site that offers some unique features unavailable to retail users in fiat economies. From a retail user’s perspective, being able to enter limit orders based on either the bitcoin value or the implied volatility value is a cool boost. When users enter an order based on an implied volatility number, the exchange automatically refreshes the order each 6 seconds based on the current variables. This way, a retail trader can enter an order that adjusts to the current market based on a fixed implied volatility number. This is something that most retail brokers in fiat economies do not offer. This type of functionality is obviously available to anyone accessing fiat exchanges using APIs: they simply need to write these crons into their own programs.

I’ve been a fan of trading tail risks ever since the days of InTrade when I wrote the tail risks on economic numbers each night for over a year and never had a losing trade. Its well documented today, with the popularity of behavioural economics over the past few decades, that the untrained human brain makes inaccurate estimates of long shots, and a small mis-estimate for a long shot can translate into a lot of missing/added value when the statistics don’t support such prices.  For example, casinos are able to get a bigger house edge for long shot bets compared to even money bets. Consider the high house edge for most land based keno — which is pure long shots — compared to the low house edge for baccarat, the core game of which is close to even money.

Let’s apply the idea that we don’t estimate tail risks accurately to look for ways to profit on Deribit.

Deribit lists serial expirations on monthly and weekly bitcoin options. As time goes by, and expirations get closer, many of the “deep out of the money” strike prices lose liquidity because the minimum tick value is greater than the theoretical value of these tail risks. These deep out of the money strikes will go “no bid” once their theoretical value is less than the minimum tick. This is where the opportunity to profit can be found. I’ve noticed that what I’m assuming are manual order entry retail users with bids posted in the deep out of the money strikes where the theoretical price is lower than the single tick value. I assume that these users entered limit orders without expiration dates and didn’t cancel those orders as the particular strike went “no bid”. Another explanation is a user is short a particular deep out of the money strike and rather than waiting till expiration, the user is willing to pay an above market rate to close out the worthless position in order to free up margin or clean their position book. Whatever the reason, these bids are “pennies from heaven” for the savvy trader.

See the screen shot below that shows the bid on a worthless option at 0.0002 btc. The theoretical value of this option is actually worth less than the minimum tick of 0.0001 btc. A word of warning for those thinking of playing the tail risks: make them covered and remember the old saying about picking up pennies in front of a slow moving steam roller. Most of the time you’ll be able to take the penny, but there is a long-shot chance that you get called away or put in, so you need to either have the capital or enough liquidity to cover (either buying back or hedging). The nice thing about Deribit options is they are settled based on a futures contract that is liquid on the same exchange.


CBOE Bitcoin Futures Contract Specs

On December 10th 2017, the CBOE will launch bitcoin contracts for trading on their futures exchange. Below is a description of the key facts associated with the CBOE contracts. My initial thoughts are that with a contract size of 1 BTC on the CBOE compared to 5 BTC for the CME contract, the smaller CBOE contract might be more accessible to retail traders because of its smaller size. I also think that having two contracts with different sizes with some slight basis risk (due to the reference price each contract uses), the CME and CBOE contracts will compliment each other by adding greater liquidity in a similar way that e-mini and miny contracts did with other futures contracts. Both contracts will be cash settled based on their respective underlying indexes.

Another feature that will come out of the CBOE futures contracts if they take-off is the Gemini Exchange will likely get a lot more volume and attention, this is probably good for the Winklevoss twin’s business.

Here are the CBOE contract specs:

CBOE Bitcoin (USD) futures (XBT) are cash-settled futures contracts that are based on the Gemini auction price for bitcoin in U.S. dollars.

Contract multiplier is 1 bitcoin.

Ticker Symbol: XBT

Contract Expirations: “The Exchange may list for trading up to four near-term expiration weeks (“weekly” contracts), three near-term serial months (“serial” contracts), and three months on the March quarterly cycle (“quarterly” contracts).”

“Market Orders for XBT futures contracts will not be accepted. Any Market Orders for XBT futures contracts received by the Exchange will be automatically rejected. Stop Limit Orders are permitted during regular and extended trading hours for the XBT futures contract.”

Minimum Price Intervals: 10.00 points USD/XBT (equal to $10.00 per contract). The individual legs and net prices of spreads in XBT futures may be in increments of 0.01 points USD/XBT (equal to $0.01 per contract).

The reporting limit will be 5 contracts (this seems quite low, but maybe this is something that the CFTC wanted)

There will be price limits, please consult the exchange website for more information.



Bitcoin Futures on CME December 18th

Today the CME announced bitcoin futures trading will begin on December 18th, 2017. This is very exciting news for crypto market participants. Trading in bitcoin futures on a CFTC regulated exchange will move bitcoin closer to the mainstream, add practically unlimited liquidity, and provide bitcoin holders with a way to hedge their bitcoin price exposure to the USD fiat economy.

The CME bitcoin futures contracts will be cash settled based on the CME CF Bitcoin Reference Rate (BRR), which aggregates bitcoin trading activity across several spot exchanges between 3:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. London time each day. The contract size will be 5 bitcoins, which considering the current price of $10,000 BTC/USD, the notional value of each contract might be around $50,000. This contract size is probably too big for the average retail trader, but good enough for the rest of us.

FAQ: CME Bitcoin Futures – CME Group – CME Group

CME Group plans to launch Bitcoin futures contracts on December 18, 2017, pending regulatory review and certification. CME Bitcoin futures are based on the CME CF Bitcoin Reference Rate (BRR), which aggregates bitcoin trading activity across major bitcoin spot exchanges between 3:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. London time.

Bitcoin Futures Get Official Green Light From Regulators

CME, Cboe allowed to proceed after pledges to regulators CFTC says venues will help U.S. surveil bitcoin’s spot market CME Group Inc. and Cboe Global Markets Inc. are poised to offer bitcoin futures contracts, easing the way for mainstream investors to bet big while dragging regulators into a realm skeptics call a fad and fraud.

Bitfinex Euro Market Update

It’s been a few days since Bitfinex listed Euro trading, so we now have some more data to work with. Even though the Bitfinex USD market is based on tether, and fiat deposits/withdrawals will remain severely restricted, the USD market is still much larger than the Euro market. At the time of writing, the current bid/offer for borrowing/lending Euros on Bitfinex is 0.012% to 0.0243% per day. There is 13,000 bid and 140 offered, so the Euro lending/borrowing market is wide and illiquid. This presents some interesting challenges and opportunities. For those of us capable of making a market (either manually or using bots) the wide spread is not such a big deal, at least as long as our volume doesn’t overwhelm the market. For my purposes, I’d put up to 10,000 Euros into this market before I’d start to worry that I can’t get the money out to lenders frequently enough to earn a liquid rate. But it’s a double edged sword, a choice of risk to reward, about whether to get the money out to borrowers or to try and catch a sucker rate.

I’ve also noticed that the volume offered in the Euro lending book on Bitfinex is kinked. There is only about 360,000 Euros offered up to 0.08% per day (from a market of 0.025% per day) and then there is an additional 10,000,000 Euros offered at 0.083% per day. So someone must think this money gets taken at this rate at some chance that they are willing to let the cash sit on the exchange (with all those associated risks) until this time. Not my style of trading (I hate dead money), but it helps us get a sense of the possible outcomes (and the ceiling on rates).

A quick glance at the loan book total outstanding shows the USD amount at 461,787,500.86 and the Euro 190,431.82, so the Euro market on Bitfinex has a long way to go in order to catch up to the USD volume.

Bitfinex adds Euro margin trading

Bitfinex, a crypto currency exchange that has been wrapped up in speculation about their relationship to tether, has now listed Euro trading pairs. Bitfinex has also offered Euros for margin trading so users can either borrow or lend Euros for margin.

I have few details on what will back up the Euros on Bitfinex, whether these are a type of tether, how users can deposit and withdraw Euros, etc, but I entered the Bitfinex Euro lending market last night. I’ve been lending USD on Bitfinex since they launched the market, and have found USD lending to be profitable, even after the exchange hacks. There are times when liquidity dries up or when demand for USD loans grows quickly as traders borrow to jump on the rising bitcoin price, and rates for USD loans get very high and this is when lenders need to expand their outstanding loans as well as the duration of their lending portfolio.

Although the overall risk of USD lending on Bitfinex is also very high, the risk that an individual borrower defaults is actually quite low since the exchange has enough liquidity to match any margin call blow-out, and since there are so many competing crypto currency exchanges nowadays, the arbitrage opportunities drive cross exchange liquidity, re-enforcing the low risk of margin loan defaults. I imagine the market for Euros on Bitfinex will be similar to the market for USD in this respect.

At the time of writing, a few hours after their launch, the margin loan volume for Euros on Bitfinex is still pretty shallow, but I bet that other traders will be drawn to it over the days and weeks, and I expect the liquidity for Euro loans on Bitfinex will rival their USD market soon enough. Going forward, I expect the USD market will still remain larger than the Euro market since the USD has more liquidity across all platforms/exchanges (including fiat markets), but considering the problems inherent with the convertibility of USD tether, the Euro market on Bitfinex might get a slight edge.

To start my Bitfinex Euro lending book, I didn’t deposit Euros from fiat, and I don’t plan on withdrawing Euros to fiat, instead, I’ll fund my Euro loans by exchanging bitcoins and other cryptos already in my Bitfinex account. To get the Euros out again, I’ll convert them back to cryptos and then send those cryptos off the exchange to another platform/address/account.

How to price CoinRoster bitcoin pools

This post will describe how to use binary options to estimate the odds of a pari-mutuel pool. Friends of mine run a fantasy sports site called CoinRoster where they host pari-mutuel pools on a variety of topics including the bitcoin price. The CoinRoster bitcoin pools are fairly straight forward, users are presented with a binary question such as “will the bitcoin price be over/under a fixed price at a future date”. As the image below shows, at the time of writing, CoinRoster had a pool asking whether the price of bitcoin will be above or below $5,000 USD on February 1st 2017 based on the CME reference price. This pool closes in a few hours with the current bitcoin price is $6,352.

This is a simple market with two possible outcomes, the price will either be $5,000 and above, or below $5,000 as described by the pool’s terms. With the current price of $6,352, we can use a binary options calculator to determine the theoretical price for each outcome. We can even go a step further by converting the binary option price into an odds number format that you prefer, in the example below, I use decimal odds.

To start, let’s tally all the information we need to price the binary option:

Days Till Expiration 92
Strike Price $5,000
Underlying Price $6,352
Volatility 90%
Risk Free Rate 1.25%
Distributions 0

The days till expiration is the settlement date of the pool, in this case, the pool closes on October 31st, and settles based on the February 1st price, this is 92 days.  The strike price is $5,000 since this is the price that the pool uses to determine the outcome (either above or below). The underlying price is the current price of bitcoin, which is $6,352. To estimate the volatility, I used the average implied volatility rate for options on deribit.com, I chose a level of 90%.  I used a risk free rate of 1.25% and there are no dividends or distributions which might impact the price, so this number is zero.

Now we have all the variables, to determine the binary option prices, simply visit a free binary options calculator online and plug in the numbers, below is a screenshot.

With these variables entered, we get a result of a binary call price of 0.62 and a put price of 0.38. The first thing we should notice is since there are only two possible outcomes, the sum of call and put prices should be exactly 1.00. We should also notice that the call option is worth much more than the put option, this makes intuitive sense since the strike price is $5,000, while the underlying price is currently $6,352, making the call option “in the money”.

The binary option values can also be viewed as percentage chances, in other words, a binary option value of 0.62 is like saying there is a 62% chance of the outcome happening. To convert the binary option into an odds format such as decimal odds, simply divide 1 into the binary price = 1 / 0.62 =  1.612 or oppositely 1 / 0.38 = 2.63. Now we have an estimated price for each outcome in this pool, 1.612 for above and 2.63 for below.

In this example, the main variable that will impact the calculation is the volatility rate. We could assume different levels of volatility and get much different results. For example, instead of using a volatility level of 90%, if we used a level of 30%, the result would be binary prices of 0.935 call and 0.065 put. This makes intuitive sense since the less volatile the underlying is, the less likely it is to make big swings “out of the money” in this case, below $5,000 by February 1st.

The CoinRoster bitcoin pools are fun ways to bet on the price of bitcoin, whether you are hedging or speculating.

CME to launch bitcoin contracts

Very exciting news from CME today, they plan to launch bitcoin futures contracts in Q4 2017! If it comes true, I think this would be one of the most dramatic events in the history of crypto currencies. Having a transparent US regulated futures market (can we also hope for options on futures eventually?) will have a cascading effect on the rest of the market. Think about the reasons why regulators have been denying ETF and other crypto product applications, because they say the secondary market is not developed enough, well, if the CME is hosting a liquid market, it becomes impossible to deny ETF applications. There is every reason to believe once the CME bitcoin markets are established, tracker ETFs will be approved and listed on recognized US exchanges as well.

When FX markets were launched on the CME in the 1970s, they supported the growth of a new global market for free floating fiat currencies. I hope something similar happens as the CME begins to host crypto markets, since it will become impossible for governments to deny their efficacy.

CME Group Announces Launch of Bitcoin Futures – CME Group

CHICAGO, Oct. 31, 2017 /PRNewswire/ — CME Group, the world’s leading and most diverse derivatives marketplace, today announced it intends to launch bitcoin futures in the fourth quarter of 2017, pending all relevant regulatory review periods. The new contract will be cash-settled, based on the CME CF Bitcoin Reference Rate (BRR) which serves as a once-a-day reference rate of the U.S.