Bitcoin bubble or just the beginning? The question is being asked from Wall Street to Main Street after the digital currency breached $5,000 for the first time, pushing this year’s gains to more than fivefold.
As recently as December, bitcoin was trading at less than $1,000. Since then, it has dodged tightening regulations, feuding factions splitting its underlying blockchain and warnings from the likes of JPMorgan Chase Chief Executive Jamie Dimon of fraud and an eventual price collapse.
The latest leg higher is being driven in part by increasing institutional interest, with everyone from Goldman Sachs’ Lloyd Blankfein to Dimon saying they are now open to ways to get involved.
“This record is an exciting milestone and sign of market confidence in the outlook for bitcoin and the underlying technology,” said Iqbal Gandham, a managing director at eToro.
Bitcoin tumbled below $4,000 last month after China’s central bank banned initial coin offerings and ordered all cryptocurrency exchanges to close. Reports that the Chinese government will ease those regulations is helping the price.
A rotation out of digital tokens sold in initial coin offerings and into bitcoin is providing an additional boost. “Everyone seemed to agree that once it broke through $5,000, the sky is the limit,” said Ben Kumar, a money manager at Seven Investment in London. “I wouldn’t be surprised to see it double from here in a very short space of time.”
Bitcoin isn’t the only one to benefit as lately it seems that shares of any company with even an indirect link to the cryptocurrency space is bound to rally. Overstock.com soared after announcing a regulated digital tokens exchange, while Goldmoney climbed after saying it will offer its clients the ability to trade and store digital currency ether.
Bitcoin’s rally and the proliferation of other digital assets is attracting the wary eyes of regulators globally. Russian President Vladimir Putin last week called for regulation of the sector. At least 13 other countries have imposed new rules or announced plans to tighten regulations.
The digital currency’s surge has divided the financial community between those convinced it is a bubble on the verge of popping and those jumping to invest.
“It’s a very speculative market,” Jon Moulton, a U.K.-based private equity veteran told Bloomberg TV. “It’s going to be a very volatile asset for a long time.”
Russo and Ozsoy write for Bloomberg.