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Bitcoin price hovers around $36,000, Ethereum plunges nearly 9%

A pile of physical bitcoins on a laptop computer
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The price of Bitcoin was down Thursday afternoon, dropping to $36,167, a decline of 5.4 percent over the prior 24 hours, according to CoinMarketCap. Other major cryptocurrencies slid even more, as the most popular cryptocurrencies deal with fallout from a likely soon-to-occur increase in interest rates from the Federal Reserve.

On Wednesday, the Fed announced that it would soon raise interest rates and continue to withdraw stimulus from the financial markets. The imminent rise in rates was confirmation of what the markets have been forecasting for months, following prior Fed statements that it intended to slowly, then more quickly, reduce credit in the market.

Major cryptocurrencies are down in the wake of the Fed’s announcement.

Ethereum, the second-largest crypto, traded hands at $2,418 on Thursday afternoon, falling 8.6 percent over the previous 24 hours. It’s plummeted almost 51 percent from its all-time high of nearly $4,900 set in early November. The new year has not been kind to Ethereum investors, with the coin down more than 34 percent so far in 2022.

It was the same story for many other popular cryptocurrencies that have gotten caught in the selloff over the last 24 hours:

  • Terra – down 11.9 percent
  • Solana – down 10.5 percent
  • Cardano – down 9.7 percent
  • Avalanche – down 9.3 percent
  • Shiba Inu – down 7.0 percent
  • Binance Coin – down 6.6 percent
  • Dogecoin – down 6.4 percent
  • XRP – down 6.3 percent

The broad-based decline continued further down the ranks of the cryptocurrency world.

Fed signals rate increases on the way, bond buying to end

At its January meeting, the Fed announced that it was continuing to taper its purchases of bonds and expects to stop buying bonds by early March. The central bank also indicated that it was poised to increase rates soon, signaling what many experts expect will be a rate hike as early as March.

“With inflation well above 2 percent and a strong labor market, the Committee expects it will soon be appropriate to raise the target range for the federal funds rate,” said the Federal Open Market Committee in a prepared statement.

Now market analysts are expecting the Fed to increase interest rates at its upcoming March meeting. According to CME’s FedWatch Tool, the market is now pricing in a 100 percent probability that rates will rise in March. The only outstanding question is by how much. The market is expecting an 88 percent probability of a boost of 25 basis points, with the remainder projecting a larger 50-point hike.

“While we’re on the cusp of the Fed beginning to raise interest rates, the more significant step of starting to run off the balance sheet is still to come and the Fed provided no additional details in their post-meeting statement,” says Greg McBride, Bankrate’s chief financial analyst. “The combination of rate hikes and eventually shrinking their asset portfolio will complete the transition from going full throttle to putting the brakes on the economy.”

With inflation rising last year at the highest pace in 40 years, the Fed is looking to dampen price increases but not hit the brakes too hard. The resulting decline in stimulus has roiled financial markets in 2022.

Bitcoin still well below 52-week high

Bitcoin’s price has been under serious pressure since the Federal Reserve’s early November meeting, when the central bank announced that it would begin tapering its purchases of bonds, reducing stimulus in the financial system. The cryptocurrency topped out at nearly $69,000 in November.

From there, it’s been mostly downhill. The downtrend continued through much of December and into January. After peaking above $51,000 in late December, the digital currency fell to nearly $33,000 in late January. Bitcoin bounced off six-month lows set earlier in the week but remains down nearly 22 percent for the year.

Nevertheless, Bitcoin remains atop the list of most valuable cryptocurrencies by total market capitalization.

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Editorial Disclaimer: All investors are advised to conduct their own independent research into investment strategies before making an investment decision. In addition, investors are advised that past investment product performance is no guarantee of future price appreciation.

Written by
James Royal
Senior investing and wealth management reporter
Bankrate senior reporter James F. Royal, Ph.D., covers investing and wealth management. His work has been cited by CNBC, the Washington Post, The New York Times and more.
Edited by
Senior wealth editor