The Bitcoin Flash Rally exposes the liquidity risks of cryptocurrency exchanges

In the cryptocurrency market, sudden price movements can send shock waves. Recently, the bitcoin flash price rally on Bitfinex raised concerns about risks associated with low liquidity on cryptocurrency exchanges.

It is crucial to understand the factors contributing to such events, the potential risks to traders, and the measures they can take to mitigate these risks.

Understanding liquidity in the cryptocurrency markets

Liquidity refers to the ease with which an asset can be bought or sold in the market without significantly affecting its price.

On cryptocurrency exchanges, high liquidity indicates a large trading volume and a small spread between buy and sell orders, which leads to price stability. On the other hand, low liquidity can lead to large price fluctuations and increase exposure to market manipulation.

Depth of the cryptocurrency exchange market. source: Kaiko

The main factor affecting liquidity in the crypto market is the number of market participants, including retail and institutional investors.

As the market grows and attracts more participants, liquidity usually increases, which leads to more efficient price discovery and less price volatility. However, recent events have shown that even well-established cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin are not immune from the effects of low liquidity.

Bitcoin flash pool: the case of low liquidity

On May 2, Bitcoin experienced a sudden surge on Bitfinex, a popular cryptocurrency trading platform. Its price briefly rose above $56,000, which is an increase of 100%.

The sudden price surge was short-lived and was followed by an equally rapid decline, leaving many traders scratching their heads.

Bitcoin perpetual contract
Bitcoin perpetual contract. source: Bitfinex

This phenomenon can be attributed to the low liquidity on the platform, which created an environment ripe for price manipulation and exacerbated the impact of large orders on the market. A combination of factors contributed to the decrease in liquidity at the time, including increased regulatory scrutiny and an overall decline in trading volume.

Bitfinex’s rapid rise is a cautionary tale, highlighting the risks associated with trading on low-liquidity exchanges.

The risks of trading on stock exchanges are low liquidity

Price manipulation

Low liquidity allows market manipulators to influence asset prices in their favour. One large transaction can cause large price fluctuations without sufficient buy and sell orders.

This allows bad actors to engage in practices such as “pump and dump” schemes, artificially inflating the price of an asset and then selling their holdings at a profit, leaving unsuspecting traders with large losses.


When trading on low-liquidity exchanges, the difference between the price at which the trader intends to buy or sell the asset and the actual strike price can be significant.

This phenomenon, known as slippage, can lead to unexpected losses for traders and is particularly problematic during periods of high market volatility.

Difficulty getting out of positions

Traders who hold large positions in illiquid assets may face challenges when trying to sell their holdings.

The lack of counterparties on low-liquidity exchanges can lead to longer waiting times for trade execution. This can force traders to either accept unfavorable prices or remain locked in their positions.

The impact of regulations on the liquidity of cryptocurrency trading

Regulatory actions can significant impact on liquidity on the cryptocurrency exchange.

In recent years, regulatory authorities such as the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) have tightened controls over the cryptocurrency industry. Thus, leading to increased scrutiny and enforcement action against the exchanges.

Trading volume across cryptocurrency exchanges
Trading volume across cryptocurrency exchanges. source:

These regulatory developments have cooled the cryptocurrency market. Some institutional investors are pulling out of the sector over concerns about compliance and potential penalties.

This, in turn, has contributed to lower liquidity on some exchanges, as evidenced by Bitcoin’s rapid rally on Bitfinex.

How to mitigate the risk of low liquidity

Traders can take several precautions to reduce their exposure to risks associated with low liquidity on cryptocurrency exchanges:

  • Trade on reputable exchanges with high trading volumes and tight spreads.
  • Monitor market depth and order books to gauge liquidity levels before placing orders.
  • Use limit orders instead of market orders to reduce slippage.
  • Diversifying trading activities across multiple exchanges to avoid overexposure to a single platform.

The future of liquidity in the cryptocurrency market

As the cryptocurrency market matures, exchanges must prioritize high liquidity to ensure a fair and efficient trading environment. Technological developments such as decentralized exchanges and liquidity aggregation solutions will play an important role in addressing the liquidity challenges of the cryptocurrency market.

Moreover, regulatory clarity and a more welcoming approach from the authorities could help boost institutional adoption of cryptocurrencies, leading to increased liquidity on exchanges.

While the risks associated with reduced liquidity cannot be completely eliminated, a combination of market maturity, technological innovation, and regulatory support can contribute to a more stable and robust cryptocurrency market.


Following the Trust Project’s guidelines, this featured article features opinions and perspectives from industry or individual experts. BeInCrypto is dedicated to transparent reporting, but the opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of BeInCrypto or its employees. Readers should verify information independently and consult with a professional before making decisions based on this content.

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