IMF: Crypto not 'fringe' anymore, link to stocks may pose systemic risks

Last updated: 12.01.2022
The International Monetary Fund is warning there is a growing connection between cryptocurrency and financial markets, which poses risks to the financial system.
In a report, the international body says digital assets are no longer on the “fringe” of the financial system. Given their high volatility, the rising correlation between cryptocurrencies and stocks could soon pose risks to financial stability— especially in countries that have adopted digital units.

“The correlation of crypto assets with traditional holdings like stocks has increased significantly, which limits their perceived risk diversification benefits and raises the risk of contagion across financial markets,” the IMF wrote.

“Crypto assets such as Bitcoin (BTC-USD) have matured from an obscure asset class with few users to an integral part of the digital asset revolution, raising financial stability concerns,” it added

Before the pandemic, cryptocurrencies – including Bitcoin and Ethereum – showed little correlation with major stock indices. Crypto has been perceived as diversifying against risk and a hedge against swings in other asset classes.

Ye since the onset of the pandemic, crypto and stocks have traded largely in tandem, with digital coins trading like other risk-sensitive assets like investment grade bonds and major (fiat) currencies.

Bitcoin volatility explains about a sixth of S&P 500 volatility during the pandemic, according to the IMF, and about one-tenth of the variation in S&P 500 returns. “A sharp decline in Bitcoin prices can increase investor risk aversion and lead to a fall in investment in stock markets,” the fund wrote.

IMF analysis showed how spillover activity between crypto and stocks tend to increase during financial market volatility – including periods of sustained market turmoil like developments in the COVID-19 pandemic, or during sharp swings in Bitcoin prices.