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The 2024 halving could usher in a new era for Bitcoin

The fourth Bitcoin halving event, expected to fall on or around April 19, 2024, heralds a significant transformation in the cryptocurrency landscape. 

At its core, the quadrennial halving event entails a reduction in the reward granted to miners for each block mined on the Bitcoin blockchain (the block subsidy) as determined by the protocol. 

Halvings are scheduled to occur roughly every four years , or every 210,000 blocks until the entire 21 million bitcoin supply is mined, approximately by 2140. 

As part of bitcoin’s deflationary approach to its capped supply, the upcoming halving will reduce the bitcoin supply subsidy from 6.25 BTC per block to 3.125 BTC, fostering a more stringent supply landscape. 

Read more: The history of Bitcoin halvings — and why this time might look different

By gradually decreasing the number of bitcoin entering circulation, and, so long as the adoption of Bitcoin grows over time, the halving mechanism ensures the laws of supply and demand will consistently impact the value of the asset. 

Impact on price dynamics 

Historically, each halving event has been accompanied by a significant surge in bitcoin price in the months preceding and following the event. 

Notably, in the 365 calendar days after the Nov. 28, 2012, halving, bitcoin prices rose 8,447%, when the reward was cut from 50 BTC to 25 BTC. 

In the year following the July 9, 2016, halving, bitcoin prices rose a more modest but still impressive 283%, and the block reward was reduced to 12.5 BTC. 

In the 12 months after the May 11, 2020, halving, where the reward was cut to 6.25 BTC per block, bitcoin price jumped 527%. 

Source: CME CF Bitcoin Reference Rate 

The pre-halving rally has shown a diminishing trend over time, likely due to miners selling off their bitcoin holdings to secure profits ahead of the impending reward reduction. 

Read more: Bitcoin miner consolidation appears imminent as halving looms

Nevertheless, the historical pattern suggests the potential for bitcoin to reach new all-time highs in the aftermath of the 2024 halving. 

Impact of bitcoin spot ETFs 

The landscape surrounding bitcoin has evolved significantly, particularly with the approval of spot bitcoin ETFs and the influx of institutional capital into the market. 

These ETFs have generated substantial daily demand, surpassing the pace of new bitcoin supply even before the halving and have the potential to absorb a considerable portion of the limited new issuance.

To put the spot bitcoin ETF inflows into perspective, at the current rate of block rewards, the bitcoin network produces about 900 new coins per day, or around $54 million worth of bitcoin (assuming an average price per coin of $60,000). 

In April 2024, issuance will fall to 450 coins, or about $27 million worth of bitcoin. 

During the month of February, net inflows into the US-listed spot bitcoin ETFs averaged $208 million per day, far outstripping the pace of new supply, even before the halving. 

Read more: Bitcoin ETF snapshot: Segment’s week net inflows hit record $2.5B

This imbalance between new demand and limited new issuance has likely contributed to the strong upward pressure on the price.

Evolution of a large liquid derivatives market

The emergence of a robust, regulated derivatives market marks a fundamental shift in the narrative surrounding the halving for three key reasons: It enables price risks to be hedged, it facilitates the management of bitcoin demand risk, and it provides market participants with actionable price discovery. 

Miners typically sold their bitcoin for fiat currency as they mined them, to pay for operational costs. This constant selling meant that price appreciation was measured. After a halving event, miners would have fewer bitcoin to sell, meaning the price could go up. 

Mining is now dominated by larger, often publicly traded, companies and with a liquid regulated derivatives market, it is possible for these firms to hedge and lock in future bitcoin prices to cover expenses without selling their coins. 

If this is the case, then selling pressure from miners is less likely to act as a drag on bitcoin prices going forward. 

A higher number of investors and traders means better liquidity and enhanced price stability for bitcoin. It’s worth noting that bitcoin has become less volatile in recent years, with fewer extreme moves both to the upside and to the downside   

Impact on miners 

The impending halving poses challenges and opportunities for miners, as evidenced by shifts in miner behavior and industry dynamics. 

Decreased bitcoin reserves held by miners, coupled with heightened competition and record high hash rates, underscore the need for operational efficiency and strategic adaptation. 

The number of bitcoin held in wallets associated with miners has dropped to the lowest level since July 2021, suggesting miners are perhaps capitalizing on bitcoin’s recent price surge, running down their inventory ahead of the halving or leveraging them to raise capital for upgrading machinery and mining facilities.

In previous cycles, there weren’t many large-scale miners and even fewer publicly traded ones. The halving may catalyze merger and acquisition activities among mining firms , driving industry consolidation and fostering innovation in sustainable mining practices. 

The rise of Ordinals

The recent surge in retail demand can be attributed in part to the rise of bitcoin Ordinals BRC-20 tokens, which are reshaping the crypto landscape. 

These tokens, often likened to “NFTs for Bitcoin,” have the potential to drive on-chain activity and increase transaction fees, thereby bolstering miners’ revenue streams amid declining block rewards post-halving. 

Long-term outlook

Bitcoin’s designation as “digital gold” underscores its role as a store of value, particularly amid the scarcity reinforced by halving events. 

Institutional investors who view bitcoin as a hedge against inflation may find the halving supportive of its perceived value. 

Shifts in central bank policies, such as prolonged higher interest rates and potential quantitative easing measures, could further bolster bitcoin’s appeal as a hedge against currency devaluation. 

Read more from our opinion section: Stop worrying so much about the next Bitcoin halving  

Looking ahead, the implication of bitcoin’s programmed scarcity intersecting with evolving demand dynamics remains intriguing. While past having cycles, with the associated price rallies offer valuable insights, the 2024 halving presents a unique confluence of factors that could usher in a new era for bitcoin.

With 28 more halving events expected over the next 112 years, the future trajectory of bitcoin adoption and network growth warrants close monitoring — especially when broader access to bitcoin was only made possible in the US less than 90 days ago with the approval of spot bitcoin ETFs. 

As institutional and retail interest converges with regulatory developments and macroeconomic shifts, maintaining a balanced perspective is imperative to navigating the evolving Bitcoin landscape.

Payal Shah serves as CME Group’s Director of Equity and Cryptocurrency Research and Product Development. She is responsible for leading the development of new and innovative products across the crypto, equity and alternative investment markets. This includes a comprehensive suite of futures and options contracts on key benchmark indices such as the S&P 500 and NASDAQ-100, as well as international access through regional indices. Since joining the company in 2016, Shah has been heavily involved in the crypto space and has helped with the creation of CME Group’s more than 50 cryptocurrency reference rates, including Bitcoin and Ether futures and options contracts, Micro contract suite and event-driven markets. She serves on the CME CF Cryptocurrency Oversight Committee.

Before joining CME Group, Shah was an ETF Specialist at MSCI and held trading roles within the Equity Derivatives Group at Morgan Stanley.

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