May 10, 2022 - Economy

Crypto prices tank, taking some companies with them

Illustration of pixelated coins in the shape of an arrow pointing down.

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

Crypto prices continue to tumble, humbling companies that made a big show of building up exposure to digital assets in recent years.

Driving the news: In yesterday's market bloodbath — as in the broader selloff over the last few months — the losses in cryptocurrencies and the companies that own and trade them have eclipsed those of the major stock indexes.

Why it matters: Whether you think crypto is a potential life-altering technology or an elaborate tech-centered Ponzi scheme, the recent tumble shows what a market downdraft will do to a speculative investment that produces no cash flows.

  • Such investments — those that generate no dividends or corporate profits — tend to fare the worst when interest rates rise. And this year rates have risen at one of their fastest clips in history, as the Fed focuses on knee-capping inflation.
  • Similarly, shares of tech firms that have shown little sign of being able to produce steady profits any time soon — like Peloton and cloud technology provider Fastly — have gotten shellacked.

By the numbers: Bitcoin shed 8% yesterday, and is worth less than half of its market value from six months ago.

  • A Goldman Sachs basket of 11 stocks that are especially sensitive to crypto pricing were clobbered by more than 14% yesterday alone. The basket's down about 68% over the last six months, compared to the S&P 500's 15% decline and the Nasdaq's 27% fall over the same period.
  • Coinbase, the largest U.S. crypto exchange, dropped 19.5% yesterday. Silvergate Capital, the regional bank that bought Facebook's ill-fated crypto technology, Diem, fell 19%.
  • And MicroStrategy, a software company that issued half a billion dollars of junk bonds to buy bitcoin when it was near its peak in price, shed an eye-popping 25.6% yesterday.

While not in the Goldman Sachs basket, Galaxy Digital, a company that acts as a bitcoin trading venue as well a crypto asset management firm, dove 26%.

  • The company reported a first-quarter loss of nearly $112 million, largely driven by tumbling crypto prices. That's down from a gain of roughly $521 million in the prior quarter.
  • What they're saying: "My instinct is there's some more damage to be done," Michael Novogratz, a former Wall Street trader who reinvented himself as cryptocurrency investor and founded Galaxy Digital, said on a conference call with analysts.

The bottom line: Assume the crash position.

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