Will the Fed Cut Rates? Crypto and Wall Street Traders Aren’t Betting on It

A weeks-long fall in digital asset prices, exacerbated by protracted macroeconomic headwinds, has rattled traders. Just how dour are the vibes in crypto today?

One measure of optimism—or the lack thereof—can be found in betting markets like Polymarket and Fed fund futures, which are traded on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. These nebulous but collective predictions on when the Federal Reserve might cut interest rates reveal a disparity.

On Polymarket, a decentralized prediction market platform, traders saw a 7% chance in March that the Fed would hold interest rates steady throughout 2024. Now, traders are penciling in a 38% chance that the Fed doesn’t deliver any rate cuts this year.

That’s markedly more pessimistic than the 23% chance of zero rate cuts calculated on Tuesday by investment analysis firm Bianco Research. The outfit used data from the CME’s FedWatch Tool, which shows CME traders settling around a 45% chance that the Fed will cut rates in September.

After predicting as many as six rate cuts earlier this year, CME traders now envision just two.

“Just cut the rates bro please,” a Polymarket user named JustKen commented on the page where traders have bet around $1.2 million on the Fed’s next moves. According to Polymarket, JustKen is down 85% on a $1000 wager that the Fed will cut rates in June.

Higher interest rates typically suppress the value of riskier assets like stocks and crypto as the payouts become less attractive than holding stalwarts like cash and U.S. Treasury bills.

After its policy meeting in March, the Fed forecast three quarter-percentage-point rate cuts through year’s end. Amid recent signs of stubborn inflation in the U.S. and stronger-than-expected growth in wages, however, Fed policymakers and financial-market participants have grown less assured.

“The committee does not expect it will be appropriate to reduce the target range until it has gained greater confidence that inflation is moving sustainably toward 2%,” Powell said Wednesday, referencing the central bank’s annual inflation target.

Consumer prices rose 3.5% in the 12 months through March, the U.S. The Bureau of Labor Statistics said in a report last month. Showing annual inflation was unchanged from figures in February, the crypto market slipped immediately after the report’s release.

Edited by Ryan Ozawa.

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