Crypto volatility continues to flummox Wall Street

Crypto giveth, and crypto confuseth the heck out of Wall Street.

In the wake of Coinbase’s earnings report yesterday afternoon, shares of the U.S. crypto exchange are off sharply this morning. What happened? Public-market investors continued to underestimate how volatile the crypto market is, leaving them to over-index on gains and over-despair on less impressive results.

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Coinbase is not alone in giving Wall Street raptures followed by panics. Thanks to falling crypto trading activity, we recently saw a similar miss in Robinhood’s earnings in terms of raw results and sharp resulting declines in its share price.

Notably, both companies made noise before their earnings reports that their crypto incomes would fall in Q3 2021 compared to the second quarter. And yet it appeared that public investors were still surprised when that, in fact, happened.

The speed of the crypto economy as a whole may be simply too quick for public-market investors to fully grok. And the exchanges aren’t even the swingiest of crypto-themed investments. Let’s talk about it.

Up, down, up, down (repeat)

Robinhood saw its trading revenues from crypto fall from $233 million in Q2 2021 to just $51 million in the third quarter. That the company had explicitly told investors that a slowdown was coming does make the declines less painful, although it may be that Wall Street had simply expected a smaller decline.

To reiterate, Robinhood had previously told investors during its IPO process that it expected to post sequential revenue declines in Q3 “as a result of decreased levels of trading activity relative to the record highs in trading activity, particularly in cryptocurrencies, during the three months ended June 30, 2021.”

And yet! Investors were perplexed.