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Tether short interest: USDT dollar peg again under pressure amid FTX fallout

By Mensholong Lepcha

Edited by Vanessa Kintu

18:00, 21 November 2022

A smartphone with a green Tether symbol on the screen among the Tether coins.
Tether is a cryptocurrency pegged to the US dollar. Photo: Wit Olszewski / Shutterstock

Tether (USDT) depegged in early November amid fear and uncertainty in the cryptocurrency market following the collapse of crypto exchange FTX. Concerns about tether’s fiat reserves have continued to haunt the top stablecoin as short sellers returned to test tether’s resolve once again in late 2022.

Why did tether short interest rise? Will tether depeg? Read on as we explore the subject.

What is Tether?

Tether (USDT) live chart

Tether or USDT is a cryptocurrency pegged to the US dollar (USD) on a one-to-one basis. However, there have been several instances of depegging and the complete collapse of stablecoins.

As of 21 November, tether was the world’s largest stablecoin, with a market capitalisation of over $65.8bn. OTether was the third largest cryptocurrency by market capitalisation, behind only bitcoin and ether.

The tether crypto is backed by fiat reserves. Its balances are updated and published on its website on a daily basis.

USDT is available across various blockchain networks, however, over 90% were issued on the Tron and Ethereum blockchains.

Tether short interest: Why is USDT under attack?

USDT historical performance

Tether is no stranger to depegging events and short seller interest. On 7 November 2022, USDT experienced a depegging event as the stablecoin fell to a low of $0.9755.

There were speculations in the market that FTX and its associate trading firm Alameda Research had a hand in the USDT depegging.

“Even amid all this and the near radio silence from FTX and Alameda, there was some on-chain activity spotted to show a potential Alameda play to depeg Tether (USDT) in order to make money back in other plays,” noted Bitcoin Magazine in an email newsletter.

“This is some of the most pressure the peg has faced since 2018. Tether has always been a scapegoat for critics outside the space but has yet to fail.”

Over the years, Tether has faced criticism for the lack of transparency of its fiat reserves. Most notably, the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) reported in October 2021 that USDT’s reserves were not “fully-backed” between 2016 and 2018.

The allegations have resulted in tether being constantly targeted by short sellers on existing concerns about the stablecoin’s reserve backing.

But how are traders shorting tether? According to Paolo Ardoino, chief technology officer at USDT issuer Tether Global, USDT/USD perpetuals, spot short selling and decentralised finance liquidity pool unbalancing were tools used by hedge funds to depeg USDT in June 2022 amid fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) following the collapse of the Terra ecosystem.

DOGE/USD

0.12 Price
-2.160% 1D Chg, %
Long position overnight fee -0.0753%
Short position overnight fee 0.0069%
Overnight fee time 21:00 (UTC)
Spread 0.0012872

ETH/USD

3,416.39 Price
-0.780% 1D Chg, %
Long position overnight fee -0.0616%
Short position overnight fee 0.0137%
Overnight fee time 21:00 (UTC)
Spread 6.00

BCH/USD

376.70 Price
-2.830% 1D Chg, %
Long position overnight fee -0.0753%
Short position overnight fee 0.0069%
Overnight fee time 21:00 (UTC)
Spread 2.50

BTC/USD

64,486.25 Price
-0.350% 1D Chg, %
Long position overnight fee -0.0616%
Short position overnight fee 0.0137%
Overnight fee time 21:00 (UTC)
Spread 106.00

Ardoino added in a 27 June tweet that the rationale behind the attack on Tether were based on the claims that USDT was not 100% backed, had exposure to cash-strapped Chinese real estate assets and on suspicions that lenders were borrowing from Tether without over-collateralisation.

In a 27 July press release, Tether said:

“To these funds (hedge funds shorting USDT in June 2022), Tether is considered to be a low-risk way to short the cryptocurrency markets that funds can easily explain to their investors. Since everyone knows USDT won't increase exponentially in price, these funds believe they found a risk-free way to go short on crypto.

“Short interest from these funds has created an opportunity for traders who do not believe USDT will fail to step in and collect funding from the other side of this trade.”

Looking forward: Tether quells market concern

Following Tether short interest news in November 2022, the stablecoin published a quarterly reserves report in a bid to quell any ongoing fear, uncertainty and doubt.

The stablecoin issuer had total assets of over $68.06bn, as of September end 2022, of which liquid assets like cash, cash equivalents and other short-term deposits made up 82% of total reserves.

Tether said US Treasury bills made up over 58% of its reserves in the report attested by US-based accounting firm BDO. Its total liabilities amounted to $67.81bn which accounted for issued stablecoins.

On 16 November, Tether published a press release denying it had any exposure to institutional crypto trading firm Genesis, which had suspended redemptions and new loan originations in its lending business following “abnormal withdrawal requests” from its client.

On 17 November, Tether assured the market that USDT based on the Solana network were redeemable despite crypto exchange Binance temporarily suspending USDT deposits on FTX-linked Solana.

“USDT issued on Solana is the same as USDT issued on any other chain. The token simply represents a claim to $1 of Tether's reserves and collateral.”

As of 21 November, USDT had recovered its USD peg and was trading at $0.999.

When looking for Tether short interest predictions, it is important to remember that cryptocurrency markets are extremely volatile and forecasts can go wrong.

If you are considering trading cryptocurrencies, it is recommended that you always do your own research. Keep in mind that past performance is no guarantee of future returns. And never trade money that you cannot afford to lose.

FAQs

Is it possible to short tether?

According to Paolo Ardoino, chief technology officer at USDT issuer Tether Global, USDT/USD perpetuals, spot short selling and decentralised finance liquidity pool unbalancing were tools used by hedge funds to depeg USDT in June 2022

Is fether good for the long term?

Tether is backed by fiat reserves. Balances are updated and published on its website on a daily basis. Market confidence in USDT’s redemption capabilities is key to its long-term sustainability.

Whether or not this makes tether a good long-term investment for you depends on your trading objectives. It’s important to do your own research. Your decision to trade depends on your attitude to risk, your expertise in the market, the spread of your portfolio and how comfortable you feel about losing money. You should never trade more than you can afford to lose.

Should you hold tether?

If you are considering trading high-risk cryptocurrencies, it is strongly recommended that you always do your own research. Keep in mind that past performance is no guarantee of future returns. And never trade money that you cannot afford to lose.

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The difference between trading assets and CFDs
The main difference between CFD trading and trading assets, such as commodities and stocks, is that you don’t own the underlying asset when you trade on a CFD.
You can still benefit if the market moves in your favour, or make a loss if it moves against you. However, with traditional trading you enter a contract to exchange the legal ownership of the individual shares or the commodities for money, and you own this until you sell it again.
CFDs are leveraged products, which means that you only need to deposit a percentage of the full value of the CFD trade in order to open a position. But with traditional trading, you buy the assets for the full amount. In the UK, there is no stamp duty on CFD trading, but there is when you buy stocks, for example.
CFDs attract overnight costs to hold the trades (unless you use 1-1 leverage), which makes them more suited to short-term trading opportunities. Stocks and commodities are more normally bought and held for longer. You might also pay a broker commission or fees when buying and selling assets direct and you’d need somewhere to store them safely.
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