A recent article was published by Bitwise Asset Management reporting that “95% of Bitcoin volume on exchanges is fake”. At first
The report that was published by Bitwise Asset Management only investigated exchanges with claims of daily Bitcoin volumes > $1 million/day.
The only exchanges with apparent real trading volumes
- Poloniex (owned by Circle)
Of note: Cex.io passed Bitwise’s
Those exchanges are very popular and have high (reported) total volume, accounting for approximately $1,650,000,000 ($1.65 Billion) of daily volume, including all cryptos, and not only Bitcoin. However, when accounting for only Bitcoin, these exchanges total approximately $270 million (~0.39%) daily volume (for Bitcoin only), which is comparable to that of the daily trading volume for gold (0.53% daily volume) – which would be totally normal.
If Bitcoin did trade ~$6 billion in daily volume, as is the total of reported claimed Bitcoin trading volume of the top 81 exchange, with a $70 billion market cap, that would be 8.5%, which is excessively high, unsustainable and not realistic for a market of a store of value. Whereas, 0.39% is much closer to that of the daily trading volume of gold. Which makes sense since Bitcoin is deemed a store of wealth, much like that of gold.
Of the ten exchanges mentioned to be genuine, nine are regulated as MSB (Money Services Businesses) in the USA, and half also have BitLicenses (for NY State). Half have both (bitFlyer, Coinbase Pro, Gemini, itBit and Poloniex). The only one without any (US) regulatory credentials is Binance. But Binance seems thus far to be an honest crypto company with a legendary reputation that will likely follow regulations once laid out more clearly.
I am not worried about Binance.
Moreover, half of the top ten have implemented market surveillance technology (Nasdaq SMARTS,
Honest crypto exchanges, with diligently working teams that are hired not only for their skills and knowledge, but also for their integrity are the exchanges that you should want to give your crypto trading business too. The honest crypto exchanges that do not fake volume are the ones who are in it for the long term and not here to make quick riches by faking volume.
Furthermore, this report identifies legitimate exchanges with real trading volume and those exchanges that are taking real measures to protect traders and allow for the free market to operate.
Of note is that the exchanges that are not faking volume are also the ones who are regulated Money Service Businesses and half of whom are implementing market surveillance.
This is critical to moving forward in the crypto industry. We need to know which exchanges are legitimate and can be trusted. We also need to know which exchanges cannot be trusted.
If an exchange is faking volume, then I do not want to use it.
End of story.
I treat this as being disingenuous, and therefore the same as I would treat a disingenuous person. If someone lies to me (directly or by omission or deception) then I do not know what else I can trust from said person. So, therefore, once an exchange participates in fake volume generation, I do not know if I can trust their security, their ability to process withdrawals or their privacy with my identity.
Moving forward, regulators can open discussions with the ten exchanges that are practicing legitimate trading, install market surveillance on all of them (currently only half have market surveillance technology), and create legitimate Bitcoin price tracking from that data.
What seems like apparent “bad news” in that an alledged 95% of Bitcoin volume is being faked, the reality is that it is a blessing in disguise because we can now fix this problem and move forward.
Why Would a Crypto Exchange Fake Bitcoin Volume?
Bitcoin is the original cryptocurrency. Bitcoin has the largest market capitalization. Bitcoin has the longest and most secure public blockchain. Bitcoin has never been hacked. Bitcoin is THE public, open, censorship-resistant, free, borderless, permissionless
Exchanges make money in many ways, but primarily through: (1) trading fees, and (2) listing fees, for crypto projects wanting to get on an exchange.
One way that an exchange can attract traders is to advertise high Bitcoin volumes, since that indicates that they have a lot of traders, and suggests high liquidity (making it easier for someone to buy in or sell out of a position). Exchanges need to attract traders to earn income, so they fake their Bitcoin volumes to attract them.
Additionally, exchanges can charge more for ICO listing fees (can range in the millions of dollars) or crypto project listings by claiming high Bitcoin volumes, since it indicates that they would be listing their coin on an exchange with high liquidity.
When you do not have high Bitcoin volume it becomes tough to attract traders and to attract crypto coin projects such as ICOs for high listing fees.
Decrypting the Data on Exchanges with Fake Volume – What are the signs of Fake Bitcoin Volume?
What are the indicators that an exchange is faking volume? There are a number of trends and signs to look for when an exchange is faking volume.
- Value of the Bitcoin being traded – real people tend to use more rounded numbers.
- Volume spikes with current events/news and market developments. Fake trading bots trade consistently 24/7.
- Low Arbitrage between legit exchanges compared to price discrepancy between exchanges with fake volumes.
Real people trade more rounded numbers and smaller amounts of Bitcoin. Bots used to
Furthermore, humans have certain temporal trade patterns. People are not up 24/7 trading similar volumes throughout the whole time. Humans respond to market news and price movements, causing volume spikes at specific times.
Volume spike alignment is similar across legit exchanges because people are reacting to the same market and the same news. When compared to illegitimate exchanges the volume remains uniformly high regardless of current events, a very inhuman way to trade, suggestive of fake Bitcoin wash-trading.
Lastly, arbitrage is low between legit exchanges, they have low price deviations. They trade tightly. This means that real price discovery is efficient and accurate since if there is any deviation from the overall price consensus between exchanges, the deviant exchange quickly adjusts to the average price as traders rapidly capitalize on it.
Markshire Crypto Conclusion on Fake Bitcoin Volume on Crypto Exchanges
While this news may come as a shock and may seem negative initially, it is definitely good that it was discovered, formally reported and the people and companies building and investing in the space are aware of it.
I highly recommend everyone to steer clear of any crypto exchanges that have a negative history of faking Bitcoin volume. If they are faking Bitcoin volume it wouldn’t be a bad assumption that they may be faking other crypto volumes (i.e. Ethereum, XRP, Litecoin, etc). I would suspect them to sacrifice other things such as privacy and security for their own gains, just as they sacrifice volumes and their reputation for monetary gain.
What beneficial changes have occurred as a result of this report?
CoinMarketCap will alter exchange volume metrics. They do not appear to have made any changes as of yet, but they claim that they will. CoinMarketCap is extremely popular in the crypto industry for tracking crypto prices and exchanges volumes. However, they have been quite controversial in the past, and remain so today. Given the nascent industry it is tough to find accurate numbers to gauge prices and exchange volumes.
Messari launched new “Real 10 Volumes” to track prices and volumes for its index of Bitcoin. Messari is a crypto research company. They announced they will only be using the above mentioned 10 exchanges based on their own research and confirmed by Bitwise Investments report as well. This consistency in findings is reassuring as well.
Moreover, Bitwise Investments has launched a website to track the Bitcoin volumes of legit exchanges. The website is here – Bitcoin Trade Volume.
What about smaller exchanges?
I’m personally curious to know about smaller exchanges that claim to be legitimate. In particular, some smaller Canadian exchanges since I am Canadian.
I know that CoinSquare, NDAX and CoinField are Canadian exchanges, but they are not mentioned in the Bitwise summary on Twitter.
Coinsquare has reported ~$7 million in total volume, likely meaning that Bitcoin trading volume on it is much less than $7 million. I highly doubt they are fabricating volume since why fabricate low volumes?
I cannot currently find accurate numbers for NDAX and CoinField exchanges, but they appear to be low, and low volumes does not support fabricated volumes, which is reassuring.
I personally use
Anyway, I hope you enjoyed my summary of the fake reported volume report from Bitwise Investments!