ETH price bulls struggle as futures remain trading below its fair value, signaling excessive demand for shorts.
Ether (ETH) has been ranging near $1,200 since Dec. 17, but an ascending trend has been quietly gaining strength after 50 consecutive days.
The pattern points to $1,330 or higher by March 2023, making it essential for bulls to defend the current $1,180 support.
The anxiously awaited migration to a Proof of Stake in September 2022 paved the way for additional layer-2 integration and lower transaction costs overall. Layer-2 technologies such as Optimistic Rollups have the potential to improve Ethereum scalability by 100x and provide off-chain network storage.
Developers anticipate that the network upgrades scheduled for 2023 introducing large portable data bundles can boost the capacity of rollups by up to 100x. Moreover, in December 2021, Vitalik Buterin shared that the end game was for Ethereum to act as a base layer, with users "storing their assets in a ZK-rollup (zero knowledge) running a full Ethereum Virtual Machine."
An unexpected move negatively affecting the competing smart chain platform Solana (SOL) has likely helped to fuel Ethereum investors' expectations.
Related: Solana joins ranks of FTT, LUNA with SOL price down 97% from peak — Is a rebound possible?
Two noticeable non-fungible token projects announced on Dec. 25 an opt-in migration to Ethereum and Polygon chains, namely eGods and y00ts. The transition will also bridge the DUST token — used to buy, sell and mint NFTs on the DeGods ecosystem — via Ethereum and Polygon.
Still, investors believe that Ether could revisit sub-$1,000 levels as the U.S. Federal Reserve continues to push interest rates higher and drain market liquidity. For example, trader and investor Crypto Tony expects the next couple of months to be extremely bearish to ETH:
$ETH / $USD - Update— Crypto Tony (@CryptoTony__) December 29, 2022
I am 90% confident in another drop down to below $1,000 and remain in my short from the range high while below $1,280
Now the path we take to get to sub $1,000 can take a few approaches, including a pump first. So be prepared and use strict risk management pic.twitter.com/Rc1nVQG5Ql
Let's look at Ether derivatives data to understand if the bearish macroeconomic scenario has impacted investors' sentiment.
Excessive demand for bearish bets using ETH futures
Retail traders usually avoid quarterly futures due to their price difference from spot markets. Meanwhile, professional traders prefer these instruments because they prevent the fluctuation of funding rates in a perpetual futures contract.
The two-month futures annualized premium should trade between +4% to +8% in healthy markets to cover costs and associated risks. When the futures trade at a discount versus regular spot markets, it shows a lack of confidence from leverage buyers, which is a bearish indicator.
The chart above shows that derivatives traders continue to demand more leverage for short (bear) positions as the Ether futures premium remains negative. Yet, the absence of leverage buyers' appetite does not necessarily mean that a price drop is guaranteed.
For this reason, traders should analyze Ether's options markets to understand whether investors are pricing higher odds of surprise adverse price movements.
Ethereum ptions traders remain risk-averse
The 25% delta skew is a telling sign when market makers and arbitrage desks are overcharging for upside or downside protection.
In bear markets, options investors give higher odds for a price dump, causing the skew indicator to rise above 10%. On the other hand, bullish markets tend to drive the skew indicator below -10%, meaning the bearish put options are discounted.
The delta skew peaked on Dec. 24, signaling moderate fear as the protective put options traded at a 22% premium. However, the movement gradually faded to the current 17% level, indicating options traders remain uncomfortable with downside risks.
The 60-day delta skew confirms that whales and market makers are not confident that the $1,180 support will hold.
In a nutshell, both options and futures markets suggest that investors are prepared for sub-$1,000 prices. As long as the U.S. Federal Reserve maintains its contractive economic policies, bears will likely successfully suppress future Ethereum price rallies.
The views, thoughts and opinions expressed here are the authors’ alone and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views and opinions of Cointelegraph.