Whale and Shark Watching After Crypto Markets Climb

With Bitcoin briefly eclipsing a $70K market value earlier today and Ethereum teasing the prospects of returning above $4K for the first time in over two years, now is a great time to check on how the key stakeholders are behaving for some of the largest market cap assets in crypto.

Cryptocurrency prices for your favorite assets move up and down for many reasons, but there are two general aspects you should be paying attention to:

  • Large key stakeholders (prices moving in the same direction as they accumulate or dump)
  • Small majority crowd holders (prices moving in the opposite direction as they accumulate or dump)

Today, we will be looking at how whale and shark wallets have been collectively accumulating and dumping for several of the top assets that Santiment has this relevant data on.

Many sources have their own opinions on what truly makes a "key stakeholder", but we have typically analyzed these large wallets, known for being able to sway markets, as wallets with over $100K+ in value. The two exceptions to this rule would be the ultra-large market cap assets like Bitcoin and Ethereum.

Beginning with Bitcoin and top stablecoins, we refer to one of our favorite charts for analyzing future price movement, available on this template for all Sanbase PRO users or those who have an active PRO trial:

Each of these four lines represents an important aspect of how well Bitcoin and all of crypto is being set up for future price increases:

  • Bright green line - Percentage of BTC held by wallets with 10-10K BTC (down 0.40% in the past 2 months)
  • Dark green line - Total collective BTC held by wallets with 10-10K BTC (down 0.21% in the past 2 months)
  • Red line - Total collective USDT held by wallets with $100K-$10M in USDT (down 5.55% in the past 2 months)
  • Blue line - Total collective USDC held by wallets with $100K-$10M in USDC (up 11.45% in the past 2 months)

Three out of these four key lines (which have historically had leading price correlation with crypto prices) are trending in the wrong direction, assuming you're among the many bulls in crypto right now.

It's nice to see that large holders are piling in to USD Coin right now, implying growing dry powder (buying power) in case of any dips. But whales' accumulation of the second largest stablecoin arguably does not make up for the continued heavy dumping of the world's largest stablecoin, Tether.

As for Bitcoin, the very mild declines of BTC held by sharks and whales isn't exactly a major concern. After all, if we zoom out to the past 6 months and isolate the 10-10K BTC collective holdings, this mild 2-month drop still shows how far up their long-term accumulation pattern is, especially if we go back to January 27th and realize these wallets have still added a collective 187.96K since that date:

But what about overall whale activity? We can often see price reversals when looking at just how many overall whale transactions ($100K+ or $1M+) there are on the BTC network on a daily basis. The general rule of thumb for whale transactions, among other key on-chain metrics is:

  • If prices are moving up at the time of a big whale transaction spike, then there is an increased likelihood that prices are about to correct and drop back down
  • If prices are moving down at the time of a big whale transaction spike, then there is an increased likelihood that prices are about to bounce and rise back up

First, looking at the amount of $100K+ BTC daily transfers, it's clear that whale activity has been on the decline for about three months now, dating back to a couple weeks before Bitcoin's March 14th all-time high. This isn't necessarily bad, as it simply reflects that large key stakeholders are not finding any significant opportunities to profit take or accumulate right now.

The amount of $1M+ BTC daily transfers does not look much different, although there was a pretty noticeable spike on May 20th, right after crypto's top asset was making a run toward the all-time high again and reaching as high as $71.4K. This spike, based on the timing of that rebound, was very likely a profit take that signaled a top.

In most cases, whale transactions become the most prevalent when volatility is reaching its peak, or there has been a significant swing in one direction, such as the market drops during the FTX collapse in November, 2022 or the market surges right before Bitcoin's all-time high hit in March, 2024.

In terms of other assets, we can take a quick look at what direction Ethereum key stakeholders are moving as of late. The #2 market cap asset in crypto needs to be taken with a bit of a grain of salt when it comes to whale analysis, as DeFi and staking tokens can often skew data and break very large wallets owned by whales into many smaller addresses (which give the appearance of not being owned by whales).

With that being said, if we simply combine the collective holdings of wallets with at least 10K Ethereum, you can find some pretty good alpha:

Over the past 14 months, 21.39M ETH has been accumulated by these wallets, or about +27% more ETH held compared to then. This is certainly a promising sign, and appears to be quite reflective of its price.

Ethereum has even gained on Bitcoin (by percentage) over the past month after the rumors and eventual approval of the first Spot ETH ETF's were announced by the SEC. So it's no surprise to see that the whale accumulation has not come to an end.

Taking a quick look at the $100K+ and $1M+ daily ETH transfers, right on the same chart, it's pretty clear that the mass whale transaction spikes (highest of the year) occurred after the ETH Spot ETF's were officially approved around the end of last week:

This was clearly an opportunity that whales saw to profit take. However, prices may continue to outperform Bitcoin as long as these 10K+ ETH wallets are still moving north instead of south through this volatility.

Taking a look at a couple more altcoins, we can look at the long-term (4-year) perspective of what wallets holding 10M+ XRP ($5.1M or more) are doing. And they appear to be moving in the right direction as well. Since bottoming out their holdings 16 months ago, these whales and sharks have added 3.17B more coins to their wallets:

And Chainlink, a very popular asset on social media (particularly over the past week, following some decoupling moments) is surprisingly not looking quite as optimistic. Wallets with $100K+ LINK (around $1.8M or more) have been on the decline for most of the past four years. There has been a bit of an accumulation rebound from them in the past six months (+17.27M LINK), but we'd like to see a bit more of a bode of confidence from these key stakeholders to justify continued rises.

Whale and shark behavior plays such a vital part of an asset's present and future. Sometimes there are genuine accumulations due to excitement about the tech or the prospects of added exposure (from, say, an ETF approval). Other times, the accumulation may have no reason, and a whale just decided it was time for them to pump markets.

Regardless of reason though, you can't argue with data. And keeping tabs on how these key stakeholders are accumulating or dumping more of these top cap assets can be a huge asset to being the first to get in (or get out) at optimal prices.

View charts like these in real-time with a free trial to Sanbase PRO here!


Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the post are for general informational purposes only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual or on any specific security or investment product.

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