Macro-driven crypto plunge spares NFT floor prices

Wall Street’s love affair with high-flying tech stocks and cryptocurrencies has fizzled as anxieties about monetary tightening from the US Federal Reserve adds uncertainty to the market, but one of the riskiest and most nascent corners of the crypto space has been relatively spared. 

Minutes from the Federal Reserve’s December 14-15 meeting that indicated the central bank could hike up interest rates more quickly to tackle inflation than previously expected sent cryptos like bitcoin and ether into a tailspin alongside risk stocks and exchange-traded funds like ARK’s Innovation fund and Tesla. Lower interest rates typically push investors into more risky assets thereby resulting in an appreciation in stocks and other assets. 

“Rising rates are reflexively causing investors to step back,” said Fundstrat’s Tom Lee in a message to The Block. “This has happened every time.”

While the rout reverted during the course of Monday’s trade with the Nasdaq Composite ending the day in the green, the prospect of rising rates could be a headwind for tech stocks and crypto. But those anxieties have not put pressure on non-fungible tokens—a market that covers digital art and collectibles that span projects like Bored Ape Yacht Club and Pudgy Penguins.

The floor price for a Bored Ape has increased by 9% over the last seven days—a period during which bitcoin and ether tumbled by double digits. Meanwhile, Mutant Apes saw its floor price decline by just 1.8%. Over the last 14 days, its floor price has climbed 54%. 

Doodles, another project has seen its price floor increase by 47% over the last seven days. World of Women, another NFT project, has seen its price floor pick up 56% during the same period.

As noted by The Block’s Osato Avan-Nomayo, NFT marketplace OpenSea has seen very strong trading volumes so far this month, putting it on track to potentially set a new monthly record.

In a sense, this goes against conventional wisdom. Indeed, Stephane Ouellette, CEO of crypto platform FRNT Financial Inc, noted in an interview with Bloomberg’s Katie Griefeld that “the Fed getting more and more hawkish” would be detrimental for crypto prices. 

“If they’re going to hike rates three times in 2022 and keep the program, and the era of low rates is over, we’re going to really see how much people believed in their Bitcoin-crypto thesis,” she said.

It appears thatNFT holders are sticking to their thesis. The reason might be tied to the unique nature of these assets. NFTs are not just an investment that you buy with the expectation of a future return (although that certainly may be the case for some holders). They’re also a status symbol that carries more psychological meaning than a bond, stock, or even fungible crypto, as noted by crypto personality “DC Investor.”

“With [crypto tokens], people start to sell just because the assets are fungible, so prices can tank quickly,” the well-followed NFT connoisseur said in a Twitter direct message. “You can’t really do that as easily with NFTs.” 

“There is [definitely] an attachment to NFTs,” he went on to say. “I think we’ve already seen a few waves of “flippers” burn through,” referring to traders who purchase an NFT on a platform like OpenSea to quickly sell it for a higher price in a short time frame. 

Chris Perkins, president of crypto fund CoinFund, noted in an email that NFTs have added functionality in some cases that make it more difficult for holders to sell. In some cases, the NFTs are needed to participate in different apps or game experiences. 

“Innovations like play-to-earn gaming have created additional demand for NFTs that may not be as correlated to macroeconomic inputs like rate increases as other assets classes in the crypto space,” the former Citi managing director noted. 

Still, if asset prices continue to decline, even NFTs won’t be immune in the long run. 

“I do think even within a prevailing crypto and NFT bear, we’ll see continued adoption in certain sectors of NFTs, especially for games / in-game items,” DC Investor said. 

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