Bitcoin price latest: Cryptocurrency value plunges below $12,000 as rapid sell-off gathers pace

The sharp drop in the digital currency comes after its record high at the beginning of the week

Stephen Little
Friday 22 December 2017 08:46
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What is Bitcoin and why is its price so high?

Bitcoin‘s rapid descent gathered pace on Friday as the cryptocurrency crashed below $11,000 (£8,200). Bitcoin’s price has fallen more than 40 per cent from its record high of nearly $20,000 (£14,950) set at the start of the week.

The price of the digital currency fell as low as $10,891 on Friday afternoon, according to CoinDesk’s Bitcoin Price Index.

It has been a volatile month for the cryptocurrency which has surged in value from under $1,000 at the start of the year.

Bitcoin hit a record high of $19,666 on Sunday in the lead up to exchange giant CME Group’s launch of its bitcoin futures. It has since lost about a third of its value.

It was not immediately clear what caused the sudden fall in price.

The success of bitcoin has led to a rise in in rival cryptocurrencies and competition in the market is heating up.

Stephen Innes, head of trading in Asia-Pacific for retail FX broker Oanda in Singapore, told Reuters that there have been moves out of bitcoin into Bitcoin Cash, a clone of the original cryptocurrency.

“Most of it is unsophisticated retail traders getting burned badly,” Mr Innes said on bitcoin’s recent retreat.

But has the bitcoin bubble finally burst?

Many economists and financial analysts have warned bitcoin remains a major gamble and there are concerns that the crypotocurrecy’s value could crash.

“It’s hard to see the bell tolling just yet,” said Neil Wilson, senior market analyst at ETX Capital.

“Large price swings have become so normal that it’s hard to decide – we can easily see this market bounce back in very short order,” he said.

“Whilst there have been some hacks, public infighting in the mining community, lots of rumoured forks and regulatory pressure building on some fronts, this is likely to be a simple bout of risk-off selling as investors rebalance towards year-end,” he added.

Bitcoin edged closer towards being seen as a mainstream financial investment on Sunday after the launch of futures contracts tied to the cryptocurrency’s price.

The world’s biggest exchange operator by value, CME Group, launched the futures, which allow traders to bet on the future value of bitcoin. Around $50m of contracts changed hands in the first three hours of trading.

CME’s contract will compete with rival Cboe Global Markets which launched its own bitcoin futures earlier this month.

Cryptocurrency exchanges have also faced a number of hacks in recent months, including one that took down the Youbit exchange in South Korea on Tuesday. Local police suspect the attack may have been carried out by North Korea.

Last week, almost $64bn of bitcoin was stolen by hackers who broke into the NiceHash marketplace in Slovenia.

That followed a $31m theft of rival cryptocurrency tether, last month.

Read our bitcoin explainer

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