Emerging financial technologies has Wall Street companies worried that if they don’t asses the threat they could suffer from similar disruption problems that have plagued publishing, retail and travel industries. Kaja Whitehouse reports.
Michael Monday and Kaja Whitehouse
Confidence in future gains for bitcoin remained high Thursday, even after the digital currency added nearly $400 in one day to hit a record.
The fact that bitcoin was able to hit an all-time high just weeks after a slew of negative news “signals to investors and traders that bitcoin is ‘unkillable,’ or at least remarkably resilient,” said Ari Paul, chief investment officer at cryptocurrency investment firm BlockTower Capital.
Bitcoin has surged 450% this year to above $5,300 despite a split into bitcoin and bitcoin cash in August, heavy-handed Chinese regulation on digital currencies in early September and critical remarks from major Wall Street leaders.
If that history is any guide, investors are betting events in the next several weeks will bring further gains for bitcoin.
Due to disagreements among developers on the best upgrade model for bitcoin, the digital currency is scheduled to split, or fork, as many as two times in November. One upgrade, called SegWit2x, intends to increase bitcoin transactions speeds. The other, Bitcoin Gold, seeks to make the process of “mining” or generating bitcoins less dependent on specialized technology.
The original bitcoin will still trade after the splits, and investors in the digital currency at the time of a split should receive an equal amount of the new coin. Analysts also noted that investors were buying bitcoin in anticipation of receiving the offshoot coins from a split.
Alex Sunnarborg, founding partner of cryptocurrency fund Tetras Capital, pointed out that more developers are withdrawing support for the SegWit2x upgrade, indicating that the original bitcoin will remain dominant.
“With news around structured products, derivatives, and major institutional capital looking at the most liquid and established asset on the horizon,” he said, “I remain extremely bullish on bitcoin and think we have significant further upside potential.”
That said, few exchanges initially supported the offshoot bitcoin cash. The digital currency traded Thursday around $300, still a fraction of the original bitcoin’s price.
Digital currency market watchers like Michael Novogratz, former macro hedge fund manager at Fortress Investment, have also cautioned that bitcoin shows signs of forming a bubble.
But Novogratz said Tuesday on CNBC’s “Fast Money” that increased interest from investors will likely send bitcoin several thousand dollars higher to above $10,000 in the next six to 10 months. Novogratz himself is also launching a $500 million fund to invest in digital assets, which would be the largest of its kind.
Financial research firm Autonomous Next estimates about 75 such “crytpo-funds” now exist.
If you don’t prepare, it might vanish forever.
“We think cryptocurrencies are suitable tools for diversifying portfolios. And lots of trading firms are waking up to this fact,” said Nick Kirk, quantitative developer and data scientist at Cypher Capital, a cyrptocurrency trading firm.
Other news Thursday added to positive sentiment on bitcoin.
A major U.S. digital currency exchange, Coinbase, announced Thursday it is rolling out instant bitcoin, ethereum and litecoin purchases of up to $25,000 from U.S. bank accounts. Previously, customers using their bank accounts to buy the digital currencies had to wait several days to receive them.
JPMorgan Chase Chairman and CEO Jamie Dimon also said during a conference call with media Thursday he is “not going to talk about bitcoin anymore,” after calling it a “fraud” in September. The bank’s chief financial officer, Marianne Lake, added that JPMorgan is “open-minded” about digital currencies that are properly regulated.
Bitcoin climbed 11% to a record high of $5,386.23 Thursday, according to CoinDesk.
Heavy buying from Asian investors has also supported bitcoin’s price gains. Demand for bitcoin in Japanese yen accounted for nearly 60% of trading volume Thursday, according to data from industry website CryptoCompare. South Korean won-denominated bitcoin trading accounted for 8% of volume, while U.S. dollar-bitcoin trade accounted for about 26%, data on the website showed.
Even the Chinese yuan held about 1.5% of bitcoin trading volume, despite the closing of many Chinese digital currency exchanges last month due to pressure from the government.
A widely circulated commentary piece from China’s state-backed news agency Xinhua last week also raised the possibility of China allowing bitcoin exchanges to operate under licenses.
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