Morgan Stanley: Crypto Winter Hurt Confidence, but Building Digital Asset Infrastructure Remains Key

Investor interest in digital assets has changed in the past year as crypto prices declined, Morgan Stanley (MS) said in a research report Wednesday. Retail interest in prices levels and volatility has eased while demand for regulated products for traditional financial clients has increased, it said.

Following this month’s demise of FTX and sister company Alameda Research, the “market is reassessing the value of all the project tokens issued” and “whether they have been used as assets for leverage,” the note said. Discussions at the bank’s second annual Cryptocurrency vs Traditional Finance event on Nov. 28, show there is an expectation in the industry for further bankruptcies and deleveraging.

While it is unclear how long that process may take, most participants were of the view that “crypto, blockchain and distributed ledger technology are going to be developed further in the future and increasingly used to trade financial assets.”

The focus is still on building digital asset infrastructure, though some investors are of the view that it could be a 10-15 year journey before digital assets become fully mainstream.

The bank notes that it is now a year since what’s become known as the crypto winter started.

Recent price action and characteristics suggest that the current cycle is similar to that seen in 2017-18. Both times, bitcoin’s (BTC) price fell more than 70% from its peak and experienced a similar drop around this point in the process following a period of low volatility.

Crypto market leverage, however, is greater in this cycle than the last. That’s probably because crypto institutions such as market makers, companies and investors are the dominant traders in the market this time round, whereas in 2017-18 retail dominated.

Morgan Stanley expects deleveraging to continue, noting that stablecoin market capitalization, particularly for the largest stablecoin tether (USDT), has been falling in the last month. It notes that Alameda Research was the largest single recipient of tether.

Read more: JPMorgan: Push to Regulate Crypto to Accelerate After FTX’s Collapse