Liquidity pool meaning
Reviewed by Alexandra Pankratyeva
Fact checked by Paul Sorene
What are liquidity pools?
Liquidity pools are pools of staked cryptocurrency tokens that provide decentralised finance (DeFi) protocols with liquidity to facilitate trading and borrowing of cryptocurrencies.
Decentralised exchanges (DEXs) like Ethereum-based Uniswap allow cryptocurrency holders to provide liquidity by depositing pairs of tokens in exchange for a fee. As of 23 February, the DAI-USDC was the most popular pair on Uniswap, in terms of total value locked (TLV). So a user can deposit DAI and USDC at any preferred ratio to earn interest on their deposits.
DEXs are powered by Automated Market Maker (AMM) systems that leverage liquidity pools to autonomously match and execute market orders. AMMs eliminate the need for centralised exchanges.
Technically, liquidity pools consist of cryptocurrency assets locked in smart contracts. How do liquidity pools work? For example on Uniswap, one of the world’s biggest DEXs in terms of market capitalisation, users can select a pair of tokens they wish to provide as liquidity.
They can choose among three tiers of fees depending on the risk of the pool pairs. According to Uniwap, 0.05% fee tier is ideal for stablecoin-stablecoin pairs like USDC-DAI due to their low volatility and minimal risk while the 1% fee tier is designed for high risk exotic pairs, for example ETH-GTC.
Users have to select a price range to provide liquidity for or they can opt to provide liquidity across the full range of prices. The deposit ratio between a selected pair can be adjusted, however Uniswap incentivises users to deposit equal value of both tokens in a pair pool.
In the event of deposits, liquidity tokens are minted and sent to the provider. The provider must “burn” their liquidity tokens to retrieve their deposited tokens and fees earned from it. Liquidity pool crypto tokens are tradable assets.
Liquidity pools explained: Impermanent losses
According to KPMG, the major levers of liquidity provider returns are divergence losses or impermanent losses and capital efficiency of liquidity provided.
Divergence losses are losses liquidity providers see as their staked paired tokens lose value compared to simply holding individual tokens. This occurs when the ratio of tokens in the pool weighs more heavily towards the lesser value token as the market buys the more valuable token.
Divergence losses are also called “impermanent losses” because losses may be nullified once token prices return to levels when they were staked.
Whereas, capital efficiency refers to trading volume executed against the available liquidity in a pair pool. Larger trading volumes executed against a liquidity pool means higher capital efficiency which results in bigger rewards for liquidity providers.
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