Crypto Stocks Show Why They’re Among the Riskiest of Risk Assets
Crypto curious stock investors are taking little comfort in the rebound in the shares of companies linked to the digital-asset world in the past week…
Crypto curious stock investors are taking little comfort in the rebound in the shares of companies linked to the digital-asset world in the past week, with the sector underperforming just about every other risky corner of the financial markets this year by a wide margin.
Coinbase Global Inc., touted last year as one of the best ways to gain exposure to crypto when it was first listed on Nasdaq, has tumbled 75% since December. MicroStategy Inc. is down 62%, or more than Bitcoin, for which the software company has been seen a proxy for since Chief Executive Michael Saylor loaded up its balance sheet with the coins. Digital token mining leaders Marathon Digital Holdings Inc. and Riot Blockchain Inc. are down similar amounts, while smaller rivals such as Stronghold Digital Mining Inc. having plunged even more.
As the second-quarter winds down, cryptocurrency-related stocks are being lumped in with the digital tokens as one of the world's riskiest asset classes. The NYSE FactSet Global Blockchain Technologies Index has fallen 65% this year, underperforming not only Bitcoin, but also an index that tracks highly volatile so-called meme stocks as well as a gauge of special purpose acquisition vehicle names.
Crypto stocks are “essentially a leveraged bet on one of the riskiest risk assets that there is,” said Steve Sosnick, chief strategist at Interactive Brokers LLC. He added that there are only a few other bets that he'd considered a higher risk for investors including certain meme and penny stocks.
While outsized drawdowns by Bitcoin are nothing new across its roughly 12-year history, the most recent selloff has been particularly brutal given the scope of the losses seen across the broader crypto industry. In less than six months, the crypto market has seen more than $1 trillion in value erased, with an index of the 100 largest digital assets sinking about 59% and on pace for its worst year since the prior bear market in 2018.
The selloff in crypto names, which started in early November after Bitcoin hit an all-time high of almost $69,000, has accelerated this year as investors globally began to rotate out of riskier assets classes amid fears that a batch of aggressive rate hikes by the Federal Reserve aimed at cooling inflation would plunge the US economy into a recession. Further adding to the pain for investors was the May implosion of the Terra/Luna ecosystem which set off a series of liquidations across the industry and sparked a rash of panic selling.
Despite the risks and deeply depressed share prices, Wall Street analysts have largely remained optimistic on the vast majority of crypto-exposed stocks.
Coinbase, which has lost more than $60 billion in value since hitting a record high in November, currently has 20 buy recommendations, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Thats the exact same number it had back in early January, when the stock was worth more than triple its current value.
“While we are not at all dismissive of the impact of the current crypto market downturn, we also believe any notion that Coinbase would be unable to survive this latest challenge is misguided in light of the facts on the ground,” according to BTIG analyst Mark Palmer who this week cut his price target on the stock to $290, down from a Street-high $380. It closed Friday at $62.71, after rebounding 22% this week.
Other crypto stocks have seen similarly bullish dedication from the analyst community. Bitcoin miners Riot Blockchain and Marathon Digital each have at least 75% buy-equivalent ratings and sport average 12-month price targets that are roughly 379% and 293% respectively above their current share prices.
They're not alone either. Among the 33 stocks that make up the NYSE FactSet Global Blockchain Technologies Index, the average projected return over the next year is nearly 200%, over five times higher than the average across the Nasdaq 100 Index.
To be sure, the largely positive long-term outlook for the cryptocurrency market doesn't come without caveats.
“We remain skeptical that crypto prices are fully out of the woods,” said Compass Point analyst Chris Allen. “We could see more downside to come given the uncertainty of Celsius/3AC insolvency situation and the pending asset sales that will likely result.”
One particularly troubling sign for investors looking to buy the dip in crypto stocks, despite the already historically deep selloff by some names, stocks like Voyager Digital Ltd. have proved that there is always room to fall further.
Shares of the cryptocurrency brokerage firm sank by 53% on Wednesday, the most since 2001, after it said it may issue a notice of default to hedge fund Three Arrows Capital Ltd. over its failure to repay a loan worth roughly $660 million. Before that plunge, the stock had already lost roughly 90% of its value this year.
“Given the size of the exposure, and given the uncertainty with respect to Voyager's collecting on any of these balances, we believe it is difficult to arrive at a reasonable estimate of Voyager's equity value per share,” KBW analyst Kyle Voigt wrote in a note after removing his outperform rating on the stock.