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Cryptocurrency TerraUSD Plunges as Investors Bail

The break in TerraUSD’s peg began over the weekend with a series of large withdrawals of TerraUSD from Anchor Protocol, a sort of decentralized bank for crypto investors.



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Tiffany Hagler-Geard/Bloomberg News

A selloff in a cryptocurrency that was supposed to be pegged to $1 accelerated Wednesday, sending its price to less than a quarter of that value.

TerraUSD traded at 24 cents Wednesday, according to data from CoinDesk, wiping out more than $10 billion in market capitalization in the span of a few hours. A so-called stablecoin, this breed of cryptocurrencies had gained favor among traders for being the one part of the crypto universe that was revered for its stability.

While the most popular stablecoins maintain their levels with assets that include dollar-denominated debt and cash, TerraUSD is what is known as an algorithmic stablecoin, which relies on financial engineering to maintain its link to the dollar.

The break in TerraUSD’s peg began over the weekend with a series of large withdrawals of TerraUSD from Anchor Protocol, a sort of decentralized bank for crypto investors.

Anchor Protocol is built on the technology of the same Terra blockchain network that TerraUSD is based on. It had been a major factor in the growth of the stablecoin in recent months by allowing crypto investors to earn returns of nearly 20% annually by lending out their TerraUSD holdings.

At the same time, TerraUSD was also sold for other stablecoins backed by traditional assets through various liquidity pools that contribute to the stability of the peg, as well as through cryptocurrency exchanges. The sudden outflow of money spooked some traders who began selling TerraUSD and its sister token Luna.

TerraUSD’s fall to 24 cents marked a 70% plunge from its value 24 hours prior, according to CoinDesk. Luna traded at $4.62—an 85% plunge over the same period.

Write to Caitlin Ostroff at [email protected] and Elaine Yu at [email protected]

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