Bitcoin fell to near US$27,000 in Thursday morning trading in Asia and posted the first monthly loss of the year. Ether and all the top 10 non-stablecoin cryptocurrencies also traded lower, with XRP leading the losers. U.S. equities slid on concerns the Federal Reserve may raise interest rates again in June after strong job numbers for April released Wednesday showed inflation is still prevalent. Investors were also jittery ahead of the outcome of the vote by the U.S. Congress to approve the debt ceiling deal.

Bitcoin, Ether slide

Bitcoin fell 2.35% over the last 24 hours to US$27,124 at 09:50 a.m. in Hong Kong, but held a weekly gain of 3.78%, according to data from CoinMarketCap. The world’s largest cryptocurrency ended May with a loss of 4.96%, the first monthly decline since the start of the year.

The token met selling pressure after Federal Reserve official Loretta Mester said on Wednesday there was no “compelling reason to pause” interest rate hikes in June, according to Mikkel Morch, Chairman and Non-Executive Director at investment fund ARK36, in a note shared with Forkast.

“(The remarks from Mester) have had a disruptive impact on various risk assets, including cryptocurrencies,” said Morch. “Simultaneously, the release of discouraging manufacturing data from China has added to the bearish sentiment surrounding Bitcoin and other risk assets.” 

Ether dropped 1.65% to US$1,874, while trading 5.35% higher for the week and 2.07% higher for the month.

Despite the overall bearish sentiment, “the market appears more upbeat about the second-largest crypto by market cap, as its deflationary features are supporting prices,” said Jeff Mei, Chief Operating Officer at crypto exchange BTSE, citing data from Ultra Sound Money that showed almost 200,000 Ether have been burnt in the past 30 days. 

All other top 10 non-stablecoin cryptocurrencies logged losses in the past 24 hours, with XRP leading the losers.

XRP fell 2.62% to US$0.5088, to lead the losers. Litecoin moved 1.24% lower to US$91.36, but remains up 8.58% for the week as the token’s third halving event draws near, which would reduce the supply of the token. 

Binance, the world’s largest crypto exchange, is said to be planning to lay off 20% of employees in June, according to Wu Blockchain on Wednesday citing unnamed sources. Binance Chief Strategy Officer Patrick Hillmann later responded on Twitter that “Binance is not cutting 20% of employees as a cost-cutting measure,” but faces “a historic operational challenge to overcome” as the company faces pressure from regulators and needs to reallocate resources.

“(Binance’s rumored job cuts are) a marker that traders will look at when scoping out the health of the market and profitability of crypto businesses and projects,” said Justin d’Anethan, head of APAC business development at Belgium-based crypto market maker Keyrock. “It probably doesn’t help that exchange volumes are at an abysmal low compared to the top of 2021-2022.”

Binance’s BNB token dropped 1.85% in the past 24 hours to US$306.28, just holding a weekly gain of 0.13%.

The total market cap of cryptocurrencies dropped 1.78% in the past 24 hours to US$1.14 trillion, while the 24-hour market volume rose 6.96% to US$32.85 billion.

Bitcoin, Ethereum NFT sales rise

The indexes are proxy measures of the performance of the global NFT market. They are managed by CryptoSlam, a sister company of Forkast.News under the Forkast.Labs umbrella.

In the non-fungible token (NFT) market, the Forkast 500 NFT index edged up 0.20% to 3,407.30 in the 24 hours to 07:30 a.m. in Hong Kong, and added 1.24% for the week.

NFT sales on Ethereum rose 23.59% in the past 24 hours to US$21.77 million, according to CryptoSlam data. NFT sales on the Bitcoin network also gained 22.66% to US$4.40 million.

Bored Ape Yacht Club saw the biggest sales in the past 24 hours, rising 3.00% to US$2.80 million.

The Grapes, an Ethereum-based NFT collection launched on Wednesday night, saw the 12th largest sales totaling over US$433,000. The collection has seen over 4,600 transactions in the 12 hours after launch, and reached a price of 0.20 ETH (US$373.16) on early Thursday morning, over five times higher than its mint price at 0.039 ETH.

Meanwhile, NFT scams are undermining confidence. NFT influencer Andrew Wang, with over 189,000 Twitter followers, promoted an NFT collection named Pixel Penguins on Thursday, which claimed to be a charity project to support the Pixel Penguins creator’s fight against cancer. But the supposed charity was revealed to be a scam, with its pseudonymous creator “Hopeexist1” deactivating her Twitter account after securing over 61 ETH (US$114,000), according to crypto sleuth ZachXBT

Elsewhere, Twitter user Pauly, who is regarded as the creator of memecoin $PEPE, has raised over US$1.2 million by simply asking people to send their ETH to an account to “receive nothing in return.”

“Overall – not a lot of people are looking to trade, sentiment is rather negative from the scams/Pauly news, price discussion,” said Yehudah Petscher, NFT Strategist at Forkast Labs, the parent company of Forkast.News.

U.S. futures fall amid inflation worries

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Image: Getty Images

U.S. stock futures fell as of 10:30 a.m. in Hong Kong. Dow Jones Industrial Average futures fell 0.18%, S&P 500 futures inched down 0.07%, and the Nasdaq futures lost 0.23%.

The three major U.S. stock indexes slid on Wednesday as investors waited for the outcome of the latest stage of the U.S. debt deal. At approximately 9.30 p.m. ET Wednesday evening, the House passed a bill to suspend the U.S. debt limit and avoid a national default.

​​“Tonight, the House took a critical step forward to prevent a first-ever default and protect our country’s hard-earned and historic economic recovery,” U.S. President Joe Biden said about the outcome of the vote. 

Biden urged the Senate to also agree on the bill — the next stage in the ratification process — “as quickly as possible,” allowing him to pass it into law. 

On the inflation front, the U.S. Labor Department report for April recorded 10.1 million job openings in April. That figure surpasses analysts’ expectations of 9.375 million. The report also recorded a month-on-month decline of 264,000 in layoffs and discharges. 

The stronger than expected data can be interpreted as “a partial sign of the continued strength of the American labor market,” tweeted Mohamed Aly, El-Erian, Chief Economic Advisor at financial services company Allianz, on Thursday.

Similarly robust monthly employment data has, in the past, preceded a rise in the U.S. interest rate. However, comments from inside the US Federal Reserve suggest that a so-called “hawkish pause” in June ahead of further rate rises later could be the more likely outcome. 

Fed governor Philip Jefferson said at a financial stability conference in Washington Wednesday that skipping a hike in June “would allow the Committee to see more data before making decisions about the extent of additional policy firming.” 

However, Jefferson added that “a decision to hold our policy rate constant at a coming meeting should not be interpreted to mean that we have reached the peak rate for this cycle.”

The Federal Reserve will meet on June 14 to make its decision. The interest rate is now between 5 and 5.25%, the highest level since 2006. 

Following Jefferson’s speech, the CME FedWatch Tool now predicts a 62.2% chance the Fed will keep rates unchanged in June. The 37.8% chance it gives for another 25 basis-point rate hike is a significant decrease from the 63.0% chance reported on Tuesday.

(Updates added to equities section)