Trend Following and Momentum Strategies on Bitcoin (Crypto) – Capturing the Trend with Free Bitcoin Trading Strategies

This article presents some trend following strategies on Bitcoin. Cryptocurrency markets have many of the characteristics of the commodities markets: Wild swings and gyrations, both up and down, exactly what is needed for trend following and momentum strategies. Does this mean that trend following works in bitcoin?

By using simple moving averages, you manage to beat “buy and hold”/HODL. Trend following strategies work in bitcoin. We test three (and free) profitable bitcoin strategies – both trend following and momentum.


The most important prey in the market for trend followers is movement – either up or down. The upside movement can create enormous returns, but the downside is also substantial. However, even simple strategies can limit the downside, as shown in this article.

Many have a love-or-hate relationship with bitcoin. That, of course, doesn’t make much sense if you want to make money in the markets.

As a trader, you need to be open and flexible and avoid confirmation biases. We own bitcoins, but we don’t have specific bullish or bearish convictions. However, we are careful with cryptocurrencies because they don’t produce any tangibles, which is one of the main drivers of the magic of compounding:

This article contains no opinions on bitcoin, but we put forward some very simple ideas on how you can potentially trade bitcoin as a short-term strategy. In this article, we test BTC-USD.

Trend following strategies in Bitcoin:

First, you need to understand what we mean by trend following, something we have covered in an earlier article:

Bitcoin has a history of enormous price swings, which require an “iron ass” to sit through. However, when you are on the right side of the market, volatility is your friend. This should imply that trend following bitcoin should work.

But volatility often backfires. Since 2015, bitcoin has suffered substantial setbacks:

Trend following Bitcoin
Bitcoin has suffered many setbacks/drawdowns along the way.

However, the max drawdown is exactly the same as Nasdaq suffered after the dot-com bubble in 2000-2002: 82% (something we covered in the anatomy of a bear market). Nasdaq required about ten years to fully recover, but so far bitcoin has recovered shortly after a significant drawdown.

Drawdowns are often hard to recover from: a 50% drop needs to rise 100% to recover. So far, bitcoin has managed to return reasonably quickly, but there is of course no guarantee this will continue.

Let’s look at some simple trend following ideas:

Trend following strategy in Bitcoin using a short 20-day exponential average:

In the tests below we are using free data from yahoo/finance. The ticker code is BTC-USD and data is from 2015 until April 2021. Commissions, slippage, and taxes are not included.

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The equity curve looks like this:

Trend following Bitcoin backtest
  • The number of trades is 127
  • The average gain per trade is 5.99%
  • The win rate is 33% (!)
  • Max. drawdown is 39%
  • The profit factor is 2.69
  • CAGR is 126% compared to buy and hold which was 94%

The equity curve is a log scale. When you have assets that have risen as much as Bitcoin, you need to use logarithmic charts, not linear. The difference is enormous:

An optimization reveals that the best results come by using an average of fewer than 20 days. The best result was using five days, which had a CAGR of 145%. It seems like an exponential average works better than a simple one.

Let’s test a longer average by using two simple moving averages: one short average of 100 days and a longer of 250 days. We go long when the short one is above the long one, and we sell when the opposite happens. Entries and exits are at the close.

The strategy returns three trades:

Trend following strategy on Bitcoin backtest

The moving averages have managed to keep you out of the worst drawdowns, even though the max drawdown is still a hefty 65% during 2018.

CAGR is 115%, better than buy and hold of 94%. Trend-following strategies seem to work pretty well in bitcoin!

A Momentum strategy in Bitcoin:

Let’s jump from trend following to momentum strategies, which often yield the same result.

We test the performance if the close of bitcoin is higher than the close 25 days ago, and sell when the close is lower than the close 25 days ago.

The equity curve ends up like this:

Momentum strategy Bitcoin
  • The number of trades is 91
  • The average gain per trade is 8.7%
  • The win ratio is 40% (!)
  • Max. drawdown is 66%
  • The profit factor is 3.84
  • CAGR is 108% compared to buy and hold which was 94%

Despite its low win ratio the simple and free momentum strategy we provide in bitcoin beats buy and hold (HODL) while at the same time minimizing the drawdown.

Tradestation/Easy Language and Amibroker code for trend following strategies in Bitcoin

We have code for all three trend following and momentum strategies presented in this article in both Amibroker and Tradestation. You can buy this plus code for at least 60+ other strategies presented in the free articles on this website:

Trend following and momentum strategy in Bitcoin video

Parts of this article are found in this video:

Conclusion about trend following and momentum strategies in Bitcoin:

Trading doesn’t need to be complicated. In this article, we backtested two trend following strategies and one momentum strategy in bitcoin. All three seem to work reasonably well.

Will these three bitcoin strategies in this article still work in the future?

As long as bitcoin continues its wild gyrations, we believe so. Volatility is the prey a trader wants and needs. trend following strategies on Bitcoin seems to be a good idea.

FAQ:

– Do trend-following strategies work in the Bitcoin market?

Yes, trend-following strategies, utilizing simple moving averages, have shown effectiveness in Bitcoin trading. The cryptocurrency’s wild price swings make it conducive to trend-following and momentum strategies.

– What is the significance of volatility in trend-following strategies for Bitcoin?

Volatility, both upward and downward, is beneficial for trend followers in the Bitcoin market. While substantial drawdowns have occurred, Bitcoin has historically recovered relatively quickly from significant setbacks.

– How do drawdowns in Bitcoin compare to historical market events like the Nasdaq’s after the dot-com bubble?

Bitcoin has experienced drawdowns similar to the Nasdaq’s 82% during the dot-com bubble. Notably, Bitcoin has managed faster recoveries after significant drawdowns, although there’s no guarantee this trend will continue.

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