Crypto Market Cycles Explained

authorBy Chris Graham
Published 11:27 Apr 12, 2023
Last update 05:30 Nov 30, 2023
7 Min Read
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The crypto market is an exciting and volatile place. But, contrary to popular belief, there is some method to the madness. While market movements may often seem random and unpredictable, over time, they tend to follow a fairly predictable pattern. 

As a trader or investor, understanding crypto market cycles is important to make informed investment decisions. In this article, we’ll demystify crypto market cycles, the dynamics of their four phases and the factors that influence them. By the end of this you'll be well-equipped to navigate the ever-changing digital asset landscape.

What is a Crypto Market Cycle?

The crypto market cycle refers to the recurring price patterns and trends that characterise the movement of the market over time. 

Just like traditional financial markets, the crypto market experiences cyclical periods of growth and decline. This natural ebb and flow is fueled by various factors, including the psychology of market participants and the overarching economic landscape.

However, compared to the stock market, crypto market cycles boast their own distinctive traits and can be strikingly shorter due to their inherently volatile price swings.

You can think of the market cycle as a blueprint outlining all the stages between the peak and low of a market. It offers invaluable insights to traders and investors, serving as a popular tool to anticipate future price movements.

The Four Phases of a Market Cycle

To fully grasp the concept of a crypto market cycle, it's essential to understand its four distinct phases: Accumulation, Markup, Distribution, and Markdown. Each phase has unique characteristics that can help investors identify opportunities and risks. 

Let's take a closer look at each of these phases.

The Accumulation Phase

Accumulation marks the beginning of every crypto market cycle. Following the end of the previous cycle after a sharp rise and dramatic fall in prices, savvy investors and long-term holders start to accumulate undervalued cryptocurrencies, believing that the market has bottomed out. 

During this phase, market volume is typically lower than average, as interest remains low. With no clear trend emerging, assets usually trade within a tight range. Prices are so stable during accumulation that some refer to this stage as "consolidation."


- Market sentiment gradually transitions from uncertainty to hopeful neutrality

- Low trading volume

- Low price volatility

- Tight trading range

Recommended Reading: Crypto Dollar Cost Averaging Explained

The Markup Phase

As the Accumulation Phase ends, the Markup Phase begins, marked by a significant increase in market interest and positive sentiment. New traders and investors enter the market, driving up demand for cryptocurrencies, asset prices, and trading volumes. Market conditions improve with a sustained positive trend, often fueled by media hype, increased public awareness, and a fear of missing out (FOMO) among retail investors. This stage is commonly deemed as the start of the bull market or bull run.


- Bullish and positive market sentiment

- Demand outweighs supply

- Prices trend upwards, making new all-time highs

- Trading volume increases

- Media hype builds

Despite the overall bullish trend, not all assets will necessarily increase in price during the Markup Phase. Some will still be affected by negative news and experience major pullbacks or corrections that go against the general market trend. 

Recommended Reading: Bull vs Bear Market: What’s the difference?

The Distribution Phase

The Distribution Phase commences as the market reaches its peak, with bulls and bears battling for dominance. Although trading volume remains high, asset prices fluctuate within a tight trading range until one side concedes. Market sentiment transitions from optimism to mixed emotions, driven by fear, greed, and hope.

Towards the end of this phase, the market will move in the opposite direction. This can take weeks or several months to play out, but typically the higher the extreme highs, the quicker the pieces fall. Investors who missed selling earlier at a profit now settle to break even — or take a slight loss.


- Market Sentiment is mixed

- Demand meets supply for a time

- Price volatility is low

- Trading volume is consistently high

Recommended Reading: Crypto Fear and Greed Index Explained

The Markdown Phase

The fourth and final phase of market cycle's is the Markdown Phase, also known as the bear market. As supply exceeds demand, upward market momentum slows down, buying interest dries up, and no new capital enters the market. Selling pressure builds, and fear fuels the market, leading to a sharp decline in prices, hence the name Markdown.

With red the candle colour of the day, many new investors exit the market or become forced sellers. Panic selling frequently takes hold, potentially triggering a domino effect of plummeting prices across all assets. In certain instances, this may drive asset values down to points not witnessed since the Markup Phase. Numerous investors may face considerable losses, as the market experiences a notable decline in trading volume as participants opt to bide their time on the sidelines.

For those who remain patient and vigilant, the Markdown Phase can offer opportunities to accumulate cryptocurrencies at discounted prices, preparing for the next Accumulation Phase and the start of a new cycle.


- Market sentiment is bearish

- Supply outweighs demand

- Price volatility is high

- Trading volume is low

Factors That Affect a Crypto Market Cycle

While major headlines and macroeconomic data can impact the crypto space, many sector-specific factors influence prices. These features may help explain why crypto prices move up, down, or sideways. 

Bitcoin Halvings: Every four years, the issuance rate of new Bitcoin (BTC) is cut in half in an event known as “the Bitcoin Halving”.With a reduction in supply, demand for BTC can increase, which generally pushes the price of BTC higher. As the market's leading asset, when Bitcoin's price rises, most other asset prices (except Stablecoins) tend to increase too. Historically, Bitcoin's halvings have coincided with a new markup phase, making it a good indicator to pay attention to.

Recommended Reading: What is Bitcoin (BTC)? A Beginner’s Guide

Major Crypto News: Positive or negative news stories and media attention can influence investor perception and participation in the market, contributing to the cyclical nature of the market. Notable recent events such as Terra (LUNA) imploding or the FTX debacle have all had lasting ripple effects across the crypto industry.

Regulation and policy changes: Government policies and regulations related to cryptocurrencies and crypto trading, such as taxation, security measures, or bans, can significantly influence market cycles by either encouraging or discouraging investor participation.

Social Media Sentiment: Social media platforms like Twitter, Telegram, and Discord have become major hubs in the crypto community. The collective mood of investors in these spaces can greatly impact sentiment in the market and potentially indicate whether there's a bull or bear market on the horizon.

How Long Does a Crypto Cycle Last?

The crypto market, though relatively new, has gone through a number of market cycle patterns. These Bitcoin and crypto market cycles have ranged from a few months to several years, influenced by various internal and external factors.

Take the early Bitcoin market cycle in 2013 as an example: the value jumped from $150 to over $1,150 within months before dropping back to $250 by early 2015. Another cycle started in 2017, with the Bitcoin price rising from $1,000 to a peak of $19,000 and then declining to around $3,700 by the end of the markdown phase in 2020.

Observing these patterns, some investors subscribe to the "four-year cycle theory." This idea proposes that a major markup phase occurs a few months after Bitcoin's supply is halved every four years. Where crypto assets then reach unsustainable peaks before their prices drop and stabilize close to the previous cycle's highs. They remain in this accumulation phase until the next Bitcoin halving.

It's important to note that while past cycles witnessed notable "booms and busts" following previous Bitcoin halvings, there's no guarantee this trend will continue next cycle. Be cautious when relying on this theory, as it's based on a small sample size and unforeseen "black swan events” could invalidate it.

Investment Considerations

Understanding the four phases in a crypto market cycle can provide valuable insights for investors seeking to navigate the dynamic world of digital assets. While there is no surefire way to predict the future, we can better understand the bigger picture by knowing how market cycles work. 

It’s important to be aware of the state of the crypto market before you press the buy or sell button. By staying informed and maintaining a disciplined approach to investing, you can maximize potential gains and minimize losses in the ever-evolving cryptocurrency market.

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What is a Crypto Market Cycle?

The Four Phases of a Market Cycle

The Accumulation Phase

The Markup Phase

The Distribution Phase

The Markdown Phase

Factors That Affect a Crypto Market Cycle

How Long Does a Crypto Cycle Last?

Investment Considerations

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