Bitcoin keeps rising to new heights, though in fits and starts. The world’s leading cryptocurrency leapt to yet another record high on Sunday to breach the $8,000 level for the first time, sank several hundred dollars on Monday, then sprang back overnight. By Tuesday morning, it was trading above $8,300, according to Coindesk.
The Monday hiccup apparently arose from a report by Tether, an organization that manages a dollar proxy used for transactions between cryptocurrency exchanges, that hackers had swiped $30 million worth of tokens. But the impact of that report on Bitcoin’s price appears to have been temporary. The currency’s market capitalization is now approaching $140 billion, having started the year at $15.5 billion, according to Coinmarketcap.com.
Bitcoin is now nearly four times more valuable than Ethereum, the number-two cryptocurrency in terms of market cap. Bitcoin spinoff Bitcoin Cash is itself enjoying a robust year, rising from the $300s at its debut this summer to just shy of $1,200 on Tuesday. It ranks third by market cap, at $19.8 billion.
Bitcoin Cash resulted from a hard fork in Bitcoin’s code orchestrated by a part of the Bitcoin community that wanted expanded block capacity to deal with the transaction congestion that has plagued Bitcoin for the past year or so.
Some of the momentum behind Bitcoin’s latest surge comes from recent events suggesting the digital currency has wider support from established institutions in the financial and payments communities.
The Chicago-based CME Group Inc. plans by the end of the year to initiate a futures contract for Bitcoin. CME, which is the world’s largest futures exchange, had earlier stated Dec. 11 on its site as the debut date, but then released a statement to Reuters saying that date was posted in error. Among other things, the proposed contract must clear regulatory hurdles. A futures contract allows two parties to exchange an asset on an agreed-upon date for an agreed-upon price.
Another development encouraging Bitcoin traders and users is the news last week that Square Inc. has started to allow a small number of its Square Cash users to buy and sell Bitcoin, though so far the new capability does not allow users to send Bitcoin to other users. Square Cash is a person-to-person payment app San Francisco-based Square launched in 2013.
The company is keeping mum about details of the test, including whether and when it might be expanded to the broader Square Cash user base.