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Researcher explains ETH exodus from exchanges

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Blockchain analytics carried out by a Nansen researcher has highlighted outflows of Ether (ETH) and stablecoins from centralized exchanges in the wake of FTX’s collapse.

Nansen research analyst Sandra Leow posted a thread on Twitter unpacking the current state of decentralized finance (DeFi), with a specific focus on the movement of ETH and stablecoins from exchanges.

As it stands, the Ethereum 2.0 deposit contract contains over 15 million ETH, while some 4 million Wrapped Ether (wETH) is held in the wETH deposit contract. Web3 infrastructure development and investment firm Jump Trading holds over 2 million ETH tokens and is the third largest holder of ETH in the ecosystem.

Binance, Kraken, Bitfinex and Gemini wallets feature in the largest ETH balances list, while the Arbitrum layer-2 roll-up bridge also holds a significant amount of Ether.

As Leow explained in correspondence with Cointelegraph, the percentage increase of ETH held in smart contracts can be seen as an indicator of ETH flowing into various DeFi products. This includes decentralized exchanges, staking contracts and custody services.

The recent collapse of FTX may have also led to fears for users holding assets with third-party custodians, like centralized exchanges. Leow highlighted the reality that the safety of funds held on exchanges may not be guaranteed:

“There is an amplification for the quote, ‘Not your keys, not your coins,’ and this is especially important given times like these.”

According to Nansen’s exchange flow dashboard, Jump Trading stands out as an entity with significant withdrawal volumes from exchanges in comparison to its deposits. Leow presented a number of possible reasons for Jump Trading’s token movements, noting the firm’s exposure to liquidity hub Serum (SRM) tokens:

“Due to their exposure to the FTX fallout, they had to offload some tokens out of exchanges in need of liquidity. In the last seven days, we’ve seen Jump Trading withdrawing ETH, BUSD, USDC, USDT, SNX, HFT, CHZ, CVX and various other tokens from multiple exchanges.”

A substantial amount of ETH has flowed out of a number of major exchanges over the past seven days as well. $829 million worth of ETH departed from Gemini, while Upbit saw $797 million of ETH moved from its account. $597 million of ETH flowed out of Coinbase, while Bitfinex also saw around $542 million worth of ETH withdrawn from its platform.

The past week also saw a significant amount of stablecoins moved off exchanges. Stablecoins worth $294 million flowed out of Gemini, while Bitfinex saw $173 million moved off its platform. KuCoin and Coinbase followed with $138 million and $108 million of stablecoins withdrawn from the two exchanges, respectively.

Leow also explained the movement of stablecoins, telling Cointelegraph that outflows typically indicate users are on the sidelines and capital is not flowing into the cryptocurrency space:

“Perhaps, the market contagion and prolonged bear market reduce the appetite for traders to be actively investing and involved in the space.”

Nansen has played its part in delivering key insights into major ecosystem events in 2022. The blockchain analytics firm delved into on-chain data to piece together the collapse of Terra in May 2022.

It then followed suit with a deep-dive into FTX’s collapse, with evidence suggesting collusion between the exchange and crypto trading firm Alameda Research. Both firms were created and controlled by Sam Bankman-Fried.

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