Bitcoin’s False Spring: Historical Analysis & What Comes Next
Bitcoin's recent price movement has excited everyone about the potential start of a new bull market. I don’t blame them. The mother token of cryptocurrencies is sitting at $27,000. The price has grown more than 40% in one week, and nearly 80% from its recent low in November 2022.
This excitement also feels eerily familiar. Personally, this is my third bear market. Each one is more interesting than the last. The first in 2015 was jarring, the second in 2019 was volatile, and the current bear feels like a rollercoaster I have ridden one too many times.
Nothing would make me happier than to have this be the start of the next run. Crypto is a large portion of my net worth and I prosper when it prospers. However, I’m here to preach caution, to help you build a parachute into your parabolic dreams; just in case this is a false spring.
Before we get started, let’s take a moment to explain my methodology. As a long-term holder of crypto as well as an active day trader, I utilize historical price data, date ranges, and technical analysis on longer timeframes to help frame past and potential future price movements.
Crypto prognostication is a chicken or egg dilemma. Some believe black and grey swan events cause market cycles. I believe market cycles cause black and grey swan events. These events result from market cycling, primarily due to human behavior. They can influence, speed up, or slow down cycles. However, they don’t alter them structurally.
Additionally, I don’t believe the argument that mass adoption will somehow invalidate Bitcoin’s historical pattern. During the 2021 bull run, many influencers called for a “super-cycle” that never materialized. As I established above, the market cycles and events occur around it, not the other way around.
To be frank and simple, the coin’s price growth represents mass adoption, not the cycles. In 12 years, Bitcoin’s price rose from pennies to peaking at $69,000 per coin. Mass adoption is first psychological, then practical. The people need to want it, and then the systems adopt it. This process takes time. It may be slow, but the evidence is undeniable.
This space activates the best and worst of the human condition. It is digital pioneering, a neo-Wild West. The greed, innovation, survival, motivation, and despair; if you look closely enough, you can see the similarities between this early-stage crypto movement and the gold rush of the 1800s. The excitement, the lack of legal clarity, and the danger.
Bitcoin (BTC) launched in January 2009. Without diving too far into a semantical argument, BTC has experienced three full cycles; three bear markets followed by three bull markets. The fourth cycle is underway now.
Note: Much of Bitcoin’s price action revolves around block reward halvings. These are hard-coded dates where the block reward for mining Bitcoin is cut in half. A halving occurs every 210,000 blocks. One block is every 10 minutes. Therefore, halvings occur approximately every 4 years.
The psychology behind people's expectations regarding reward halvings has become a self-fulfilling prophecy for the market's overall price action and can be seen as an indicator of future movements.
First Cycle (2009–2013)
For simplicity, we will define the market cycles based on all-time highs and all-time lows. For BTC’s first cycle, we start at the beginning, in 2009, when the price was essentially nothing. BTC peaked at approximately $1,200 in November 2013. The first BTC halving occurred almost exactly 12 months earlier, in November 2012 (Blue vertical line below).
Mt. Gox, the largest exchange for cryptocurrency at that time, was hacked continuously from 2012–2014 due to the rising prices and interest in crypto. Their CEO, Mark Karpeles, was not known as a competent leader, resulting in major vulnerabilities. Mt. Gox ceased operations in mid-February after BTC’s price fell 50% from the previous all-time high.
Incompetent leadership will continue to be a common theme for future post-bull cycle black swan events. Market cycles expose weak leaders, resulting in major losses for the industry and deepening bear markets.
Second Cycle (2013–2017)
From the fallout of Mt. Gox, after its high in November 2013, BTC entered its first official bear market. Bitcoin had a double bottom, with its lowest occurring in August 2015 at $162. An 86.5% decrease in value from the previous all-time high (ATH).
BTC peaked at $19,800 in December 2017. A 12,126% increase from the market cycle low in August 2015. The previous low to the new high took approximately 2.25 years. The second BTC halving occurred in July 2016 (Blue vertical line below). This was approximately 17 months before the new high and 11 months after the market cycle low.
After the peak in late 2017, the market was hit with several scams and platform closures. The infamous Bitconnect, which collected billions in investor funds, shuttered suddenly in January 2018, when the BTC price fell by 50% from the peak a month earlier. Crypto Ponzi schemes like Bitconnect are only viable in bull markets. When the market turned, their unsustainability became apparent and collapsed.
Third Cycle (2018–2021)
Market volatility hit a new level during the bear market following the high in late 2017. The market experienced a double bottom again, the lowest occurring on the first drop, a low of $3,124 in December 2018. An 84.2% decrease in value from the previous high.
BTC peaked at $69,000 in November 2021. A 2,100% increase from the market cycle low in August 2015. The previous low to the new high took approximately 2.9 years. The second BTC halving occurred in May 2020 (Blue vertical line below). This was approximately 18 months before the new high and 17 months after the market cycle low.
After the peak in 2021, once the market began cycling down, we were hit with several black swan events. The Terra Luna collapse, the FTX collapse, Celsius, BlockFi, 3AC. Additionally, there were parasitic 8 and 9-figure rebase/reflection protocols whose hyperinflationary tokenomics resulted in massive losses for its investors when the market turned red.
As I stated before, the downturn exposes incompetent leadership, resulting in protocol collapse and deeper market lows. That ineptitude was always present, but a positive capital inflow masks it from public view.
Anyone can look like a genius when the money is falling into their lap by the truckload. Easy success breeds Dunning-Kruger, which motivates confident, naive, and terrible decision-making.
Green markets hide incompetence. Red markets shine a spotlight on it.
Fourth Cycle (2022 — Present)
To date, the fourth market cycle of Bitcoin has played out according to historical standards. The low thus far in this bear market occurred one year after the ATH, at a price of $15,470. A 77.7% drop in value from the previous high thus far. The upcoming Bitcoin reward halving is March 2024 (Blue vertical line below).
Before we get into what I think will happen next, lets rewind a bit back to the last two cycles to talk about what I have called Bitcoin’s False Spring.
When Bitcoin bottomed out in December 2018, many in the market said the bottom was in and a new market cycle had begun. By April 2019, they believed a new bull market was confirmed. We were getting green candles every day; it was a moon mission from there on out.
From Dec. 2018 low to June 2019, BTC price rose 343% from $3,124 to nearly $14,000, reclaiming 65% of what was lost from the previous ATH. “We’re back, baby!” But we weren’t. It was a false spring.
From a historical standpoint, the timing made little sense. It was happening a full year before the halving. Thus far in Bitcoin’s existence, the bull market runs into new all-time highs happen AFTER halvings, not before.
From June to December 2019, BTC retraced more than 50% from the local high, down to $6,400. The price rebounded slightly, but then the COVID pandemic swept across all asset classes, including crypto.
COVID didn’t cause the pullback; it exacerbated it. The market was already cycling down. One could argue from a technical standpoint that the false spring ended in December 2019. But a false spring existed nonetheless.
Summary of Cycles
Before we move on to the predictions and what I think will happen in the coming months and years, let’s review some data points from the previous three cycles to help frame the speculation ahead.
Time from All-Time High (ATH) to All-Time High
2013 to 2017: 4 years, 1 month
2017 to 2021: 3 years, 11 months . (avg. 4 years)
Time from BTC Halving to ATH
1st Cycle: 12 months
2nd Cycle: 17 months
3rd Cycle: 18 months . (avg. 15.6 months, but progressing in length)
Percentage Lost from ATH to Proceeding Low
2022: -77.7% . (currently)
Percentage Gained from ATH to ATH
2013 to 2017: 1,550%
2017 to 2021: 248% . (84% decrease)
Time from Halving to Reclaiming Previous ATH
2016 Halving to Prev. 2013 ATH: 32 Weeks
2020 Halving to Prev. 2017 ATH: 31 Weeks
Timing of ATHs and Market Bottoms
All three BTC peaks occurred in the months of November/December, despite reward halvings occurring two months earlier each cycle. During their bear markets, the two most recent cycles experienced a double bottom, with all three cycle’s first bottoms occurring 12–15 months after ATH.
Fourth Cycle Predictions
The moment you’ve all been waiting for: what comes next? I tweeted about this scenario without first looking at the more macro and historical data. The message was right, but the numbers were wrong.
Here is my updated forecast for the upcoming finish to the Fourth Cycle of the BTC price:
The False Spring will likely continue through Summer 2023, up to a range between $38,000-$48,000. From there, the market will retrace for some months into Q4 2023/Q1 2024, reaching below $20,000, near a breakout point from the falling wedge BTC was in on the weekly chart second half of 2022 (see below).
The double bottom for BTC could easily play out like the two cycles prior, with BTC reaching a range between $16,000-$19,000 by Q1 2024. From here, the market will likely begin to trend upward slightly in anticipation of the Bitcoin reward halving in March 2024.
After the BTC halving, based on the previous two cycles, it will likely take approximately 25–35 weeks for the BTC price to reclaim the 2021 high of $69,800. This is in the range of Q4 2024. From there, BTC will climb to new ATHs month after month into mid-2025.
In mid-2025, BTC will reach for the 1.618 fib extension at $102,000 but fail. It will retrace 30–40% above the previous all-time high ($70,000-$80,000 range), as it did in 2021 before making a second attempt at that ATH.
In Q3/4 2025, BTC will likely push to and break $100,000 for the first time ever, reaching the 1.618 fib extension and creating a major bearish divergence on the weekly timeframe, as it did in 2021 (see below).
At the end of 2025, the Fourth Cycle of BTC would be complete.
Why do I think $102,000 will be the top in 2025?
From the 2013 peak to the 2017 peak, ATH grew by 1,550%. However, from the 2017 peak to the 2021 peak, ATHs only grew by 248%. An 84% reduction in growth from peak to peak. This extreme reduction in growth relative to previous price cannot be ignored.
In the next cycle, an 84% reduction of 248% is 39.7%. Purely off this calculation, a 39.7% increase in the next ATH would be $96,393. The likely landing spot of the first push to the $100,000 level that I mentioned previously.
Accounting for FOMO and the euphoria the industry would feel attempting to add a zero to BTC’s price, a second attempt to reach would extend the price up to the $102,000 target. This will be momentary as a $100,000 BTC would trigger massive profit taking from whales and institutions.
After this point, the Fifth Cycle of BTC will begin.
Thank you for taking the time read this piece. Please do your own research. This is not financial advice. All I can hope for is that there are nuggets of information and insight in this piece that can help inform your own personal strategies when analyzing the market overall.