Image: Ethereum Foundation

Ethereum Shanghai upgrade prompts Ether withdrawals, but no stampede for exits

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Holders of Ether, the native token of the US$231 billion Ethereum blockchain, started withdrawing the cryptocurrency after the so-called Shanghai upgrade was completed in the early morning of Thursday in Asia, but the price of Ether held up and analysts said the withdrawn amounts were in line with expectations. 

The main feature of the upgrade is the capability for users known as validators to withdraw their staked Ether, or tokens deposited to support the operations of the Ethereum blockchain, the world’s second-biggest, in return for a passive income, usually in the form of more tokens.

As of noon in Hong Kong, over 53,320 Ether (US$102 million) had been withdrawn, with another 558,4420 held by 268,820 validators awaiting withdrawal, according to data from Token Unlocks. The data tracker estimates withdrawals may reach 105,680 Ether in the next 12 hours. About 3,000 Ether were staked in the network post-upgrade.

Ether was changing hands at US$1,916 around Thursday noon in Hong Kong, up 2.5% in the past 24 hours, according to CoinMarketCap data. The cryptocurrency has risen about 60% so far this year.

“The withdrawal amount we are seeing is something we [and the community] expected given that these stakers had committed their funds without a certain timeline for withdrawal,” Jonathon Miller, managing director of cryptocurrency exchange Kraken Australia, told Forkast in an emailed comment on Thursday. Some large movements and volatility were expected, he said.

Charlie McGlynn, head of decentralized finance trading at XREX, a Taipei-based fiat-crypto exchange, echoed those views. “All things considered, there is far from a massive rush to exit as many surmised would take place,” he told Forkast on Thursday. 

“This is a strong derisking event as users can now feel at ease to stake and unstake,” McGlynn said. “New staking deposits can be expected to increase in the coming days and weeks.”

With around 18 million Ether – worth about US$34.5 billion and about 15% of the total supply – staked into the network, according to Etherscan, concerns emerged that holders could rush to sell Ether to lock in profits, which would drive prices lower. According to Coin Metrics estimates cited in a Tuesday Bloomberg report, users may withdraw 1.2 million Ether in the five days after the upgrade.

However, Guilhem Chaumont, chief executive officer of crypto-financial service Flowdesk, points out that daily system limits on how much staked Ether can be withdrawn could itself prevent a sell off in the token. Only 115,200 withdrawals can be processed per day, according to the Ethereum Foundation.

“It’s important to realize that the withdrawal queue only allows a limited set of requests per day, so while there may be sustained downward pressure on the price, unstaking is not likely to cause a sharp, sudden dip,” he said in an emailed comment earlier this week.

Ken Timsit, head of Cronos Labs, the accelerator of the Cronos chain that links the Ethereum and Cosmos blockchains, has cautioned that Ether stakers would monitor withdrawals after the Shanghai upgrade is completed and may potentially overreact if there is significant withdrawal demand.

“Once short-term volatility has been smoothed out, however, it is likely that the outcome will be neutral given that this upgrade has been priced into Ether value for some time,” Timsit said in an emailed comment earlier this week.



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