Crypto market cap tops $1-trillion as bitcoin breaches $37 000

Image: André François McKenzie

The total market value of cryptocurrencies surpassed US$1-trillion for the first time on Thursday amid a frenzied and volatile rally in bitcoin to yet another record.

Cryptocurrencies hit the milestone after a fivefold climb in market value in the past year, data from tracker CoinGecko shows. Strategists have cited demand from speculative retail traders, trend-following quant funds, the rich and even institutional investors as among the reasons for the surge.

Bitcoin rose as much as 4% on Thursday to top $37 000 and has more than quadrupled in the past year. It accounts for about two-thirds of cryptocurrency market value, followed by ether on about 14%. Ether is up 62% so far this year.

Digital coins are jumping in a world awash with fiscal and monetary stimulus, even as some commentators fear an inevitable bust and others question the basic integrity of crypto markets. Proponents of bitcoin argue it offers a hedge against dollar weakness and the risk of faster inflation, a bit like gold, while critics decry the intellectual soundness of comparing the two assets.

Active bitcoin accounts are nearing their all-time high levels of late 2017, according to researcher Flipside Crypto — possibly a sign that some holders are planning to sell. Fewer than 2% of accounts hold 95% of bitcoin supply, so a few big trades can impact prices. The last big bitcoin boom began imploding in late 2017.

Some traders pointed to JPMorgan Chase & Co’s long-term bitcoin price forecast of $146 000 as possibly fuelling the rally. Others said sentiment was boosted by a US regulatory update that allows a class of less volatile coins to be used by banks for payments.  — Reported by Olga Kharif, (c) 2020 Bloomberg LP