Why Bitcoin and Ethereum were down big on Tuesday morning

FTX may be in trouble, and that's having cascading effects across the crypto markets.

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A male investor wearing a blue shirt looks off to the side with a miffed look on his face as the share price declines.

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This article was originally published on Fool.com. All figures quoted in US dollars unless otherwise stated.

What happened 

Cryptocurrencies didn't just wake up on the wrong side of the bed this morning; they had a terrible night. At 9:45 p.m. ET on Monday, the bottom fell out of the FTX Token (CRYPTO: FTT) and the race was on to sell everything in crypto. 

The worst of the decline was reserved for smaller cryptocurrencies, but as of 9:40 a.m. ET, Bitcoin (CRYPTO: BTC) has fallen 5.8% in the last 24 hours, Ethereum (CRYPTO: ETH) is down 7.5%, and Aptos (CRYPTO: APT) has dropped 13.3%. 

So what 

Drama has been building in the crypto space for about a week after CoinDesk reported that Sam Bankman-Fried's trading arm, Alameda Research, has $14.6 billion in assets and $8 billion in liabilities. That's not a problem in itself, but CoinDesk also said that $5.8 billion of the assets were the FTX Token, FTT. It's notable that Bankman-Fried also founded the FTX exchange, which is one of the top exchanges in cryptocurrencies.

Over the weekend, Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao announced that he would be selling nearly $500 million in FTX Tokens, causing speculation that their value would plummet. That's exactly what happened on Monday night, whether it was because of Binance's selling or traders anticipating the sale.

At the same time, customers are pulling money off of FTX's exchange, which could cause a "run on the bank". Nansen reported that FTX has had $1.2 billion worth of Ethereum and ERC-20 tokens withdrawn in the last 24 hours compared to $540 million in deposits. CryptoQuant says FTX's Bitcoin reserves were zero at one point.

Banks and exchanges typically don't keep enough reserves to pay all customers their money if they withdraw all at once, which is known as a run on the bank. This can cause panic selling and leave a company insolvent relatively quickly. 

Now what 

This is reminiscent of the summer collapse of Three Arrows Capital, which brought down Celsius Network and Voyager with it. Leverage that investors didn't know about on the balance sheet suddenly became problematic when crypto values fell and loans were called back. 

We're not sure this is what's happening at Alameda with the FTX Token, but given the price action and money moving out of FTX, investors are taking a cautious approach. 

It's not clear what happens next. FTX is still one of the largest exchanges, and if it fails, the impacts on crypto could be enormous. I wouldn't be surprised if this isn't the end of the decline in crypto prices, although that means a buying opportunity for long-term investors, because an exchange can go bankrupt, but a token can't.

This article was originally published on Fool.com. All figures quoted in US dollars unless otherwise stated.

Travis Hoium has positions in Ethereum. The Motley Fool Australia's parent company Motley Fool Holdings Inc. has positions in and has recommended Bitcoin and Ethereum. The Motley Fool Australia has positions in Bitcoin and Ethereum. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Scott Phillips.

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