• Bloomberg, Kyodo


Bitcoin is showing no signs of slowing down, blowing past $9,500 (about ¥1,054,500) less than a week after topping $8,000 and now quickly closing in on five big figures.

The price of the largest cryptocurrency by market value is soaring as it gains greater mainstream attention, despite warnings of a bubble in what not everyone agrees is an asset. From Wall Street executives to venture capitalists observers have been weighing in, with some more skeptical than others. Bitcoin has risen about 45 percent over the past two weeks.

By comparison, it took the S&P 500 Index since February 2014 to achieve a similar increase.

“The weekend’s bitcoin price hike is just the continuation of a long-term bull run on the cryptocurrency, fueled by . . . speculative trading on Japanese exchanges and the entrance of institutional investors across the world,” said Thomas Glucksmann, Hong Kong-based head of marketing at cryptocurrency exchange Gatecoin Ltd. “It is more likely that the $10,000 psychological stratosphere will push more institutional investors into the mix.”

The surge has swept along individual investors. The number of accounts at Coinbase, one of the largest platforms for trading bitcoin and rival Ethereum, has almost tripled to 13 million in the past year, according to Bespoke Investment Group LLC.

Bitcoin climbed as high as an intraday record high of $9,747.49 on Monday, and was at $9,350.33 as of 9:40 a.m. in London, up 13 percent from Friday.

In Japan, the price of one bitcoin briefly topped ¥1 million on Sunday for the first time on a major exchange in the country, amid hopes for its widespread use.

According to Japanese exchange Coincheck the bitcoin digital currency hit ¥1,001,904 at one point Sunday afternoon, marking a 10-fold increase since January when it was trading at around ¥100,000.

Market analysts said the rise in the price could be attributed to media reports that a major U.S. futures exchange plans to launch bitcoin futures, which spurred expectations that the bitcoin market will expand.

Due to its relatively cheap transaction costs, bitcoin has been widely used in China, Europe and the United States. The system works without a public administrator such as a government or central bank.

In Japan, major electronics retailer Bic Camera Inc. started accepting payments by bitcoin in April. The rapid appreciation has made it difficult for bullish analysts and investors to keep their predictions up to date. Hedge fund manager Mike Novogratz, who is starting a $500 million fund to invest in cryptocurrencies, said last week that bitcoin would end the year at $10,000. A day later, Fundstrat head of research Thomas Lee doubled his own price target to $11,500 by the middle of 2018.

In a move toward mainstream investing, CME Group Inc. has said it plans to start offering futures contracts for bitcoin which could begin trading in December. JPMorgan Chase & Co., the largest U.S. bank, was weighing last week whether to help clients bet on bitcoin via the proposed futures contracts, according to a person with knowledge of the situation.

Bitcoin’s surge in value is forcing Wall Street banks to balance clients’ interest in speculating on the cryptocurrency with executives’ skepticism about its future.

JPMorgan Chase & Co. Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon has been one of bitcoin’s most prominent detractors, calling it a fraud and deriding buyers as “stupid,” while his finance chief, Marianne Lake, has struck a more measured tone. The firm is “open minded” to the potential uses for digital currencies so long as they are properly regulated, she said last month.

The total market cap of digital currencies now sits north of $300 billion, according to Coinmarketcap.com‘s website.


Coronavirus banner