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Because Bitcoin (CRYPTO: BTC) makes up roughly half of the overall market capitalization of the cryptocurrency sector, the direction it trades typically drives the direction of the overall market. While that can be frustrating for investors in many smaller-cap projects, it’s also true that Bitcoin’s momentum often dictates the price action of other projects across the spectrum.

Accordingly, key psychological thresholds simply get much more attention when it comes to Bitcoin over other digital assets. With the world’s largest cryptocurrency currently trading right around $26,000 per token at the time of this writing, there’s some significant uncertainty as to which direction this token will trend over the medium term.

Bitcoin liquidations continue to drive significant volatility, tend to exacerbate rallies to the upside, and make intraday losses more untenable for investors. Indeed, much of the downside move we’ve seen in Bitcoin in recent months appears to be tied to such liquidations, with bullish investors seeing more pain than those taking a cautious stance.

With that said, there are reasons why investors may want to shift their view to a more bullish one moving forward. Let’s dive into the bull case and bear case as to why Bitcoin could make a sharp move higher or lower from here.

What could drive Bitcoin above $30,000

To be fair, the $30,000 threshold is one that’s more likely to be attained in the near to medium term than the $20,000 level, at least in my view. That’s largely because I think investors are about to catch on to the fact that more institutional money is poised to flow into the cryptocurrency sector, and mostly into Bitcoin.

Investors may have heard the news: A three-judge panel from the U.S. Court of Appeals has given a favorable interpretation for spot Bitcoin exchange-traded funds (ETFs) to be launched. This panel granted Grayscale Investments’ petition for review, to have its Grayscale Bitcoin Trust rolled into a spot Bitcoin ETF.

Within the ruling, this panel suggested that the SEC acted arbitrarily in its ban on spot Bitcoin ETFs, accepting the argument that spot and Bitcoin futures markets are extremely highly correlated. Essentially, the panel couldn’t answer the question that, if futures ETFs are allowed, why are spot options not available to the public?

The SEC has delayed making a decision on the spot Bitcoin ETFs on its desk until October. However, it’s my view that, at the end of the day, spot Bitcoin ETFs will be available to investors within the next few months. This ruling was pretty definitive, and it’s the latest blow for the SEC, which likely won’t want to take more losses in its crusade against this sector.

As more institutional capital flows into Bitcoin, an effective floor may be placed under the token, at least over the intermediate term. There’s a tremendous amount of capital sitting on the sidelines in alternative assets such as precious metals and real estate that may be looking for a home in the crypto sector. If a fraction of this capital moves into spot Bitcoin ETFs, the initial buying activity and excitement around capital inflows could create a self-fulfilling price surge.

What could push Bitcoin below $20,000

The crypto sector in general has dealt with a myriad of headwinds over the past two years. From late-2021 highs to today, the price of Bitcoin has plunged from a high of around $69,000 per token to the aforementioned $26,000 level. That decline of more than 60% is painful for investors who bought near the top, but it’s certainly not as devastating as other declines we’ve seen in the sector. In many regards, Bitcoin has been an outperformer relative to the alt coin space, and will likely remain so moving forward.

That said, many of the same catalysts that forced valuations lower in the crypto sector in 2022 remain in place. Interest rates are likely to remain higher for longer, as inflation continues to hover around twice the Federal Reserve’s target (at least on core CPI). For riskier and more speculative asset classes like crypto, that’s not a recipe for asset price inflation over the medium term.

Additionally, the amount of leverage in the crypto sector could drive significant moves to the downside in short order, should some sort of shock materialize. The yield curve has been inverted for a long time (one of the longest inversions in recent history). If we get the shock that many are waiting for, the economy tips into recession, and most of the excess liquidity in the markets dries up, that’s not a good sign for Bitcoin.

Are the bulls or bears right?

Ultimately, as with other risk assets like equities, bear markets and recessions happen, and valuations take a hit during these periods. I don’t have my crystal ball out, so I can’t predict if something terrible is on the horizon. However, it’s the possibility that a recession could be right around the corner that has many investors on the sidelines.

We’ll see whether the bulls or bears are proven right, but I remain on the sidelines with Bitcoin for now.

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Chris MacDonald has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has positions in and recommends Bitcoin. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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