The cryptocurrency industry was on edge on Monday as bitcoin struggled to stay above a key level, with investors fearing that problems at major crypto players could unleash a wider market shakeout.

Bitcoin, the world's biggest cryptocurrency, was trading just under the symbolic level of $20,000 in early London trading hours.

Bitcoin had dropped on Saturday to as low as $17,592.78, falling below $20,000 for the first time since December 2020.

It has lost almost 60% of its value this year and 37% this month alone in the cryptocurrency sector's latest meltdown.

Its fall follows problems at several major industry players. Further  declines, market players said, could have a knock-on effect as other  crypto investors are forced to sell their holdings to meet margin calls  and cover losses.

Crypto hedge fund Three Arrows Capital is exploring options including  the sale of assets and a bailout by another firm, its founders told the  Wall Street Journal in a story published Friday,

the same day Asia-focused crypto lender Babel Finance said it would suspend withdrawals.

Crypto lender Celsius Network this month said it would suspend customer  withdrawals. In a blog on Monday, Celsius said it would continue working  with regulators and officials,

but that it would pause its customer Q&A sessions. Celius also said  that stabilizing its liquidiy and operations "will take time."

Smaller tokens, which usually move in tandem with bitcoin, were also  hurt. No.2 token ether was at $1,0752, having dipped below its own  symbolic level of $1,000 over the weekend.

The fall in crypto markets has coincided with a slide for equities, as  US stocks suffered their biggest weekly percentage decline in two years  on fears of rising interest rates and the growing likelihood of  recession.

Bitcoin's moves have tended to follow a similar pattern to other risk assets such as tech stocks.

The overall crypto market capitalisation is roughly $877 billion,  according to price site Coinmarketcap, down from a peak of $2.9 trillion  in November 2021.

A fall in stablecoins — a type of crypto designed to hold a steady value  — is also suggesting investors are pulling money from the sector as a  whole.