Bitcoin surges to highest level since June last year

Industry's harsh regulatory oversight has not dissipated, despite all the renewed hype over prices surging

Bitcoin is up by almost 90 per cent since the start of the year. REUTERS
Powered by automated translation

Bitcoin hit its highest level in a year amid renewed fervour for digital assets despite a slew of challenges for the industry.

The original digital currency crossed above $31,013, its 2023 peak, to reach its highest level since June 2022, Bloomberg data show. The surge has brought Bitcoin to as high as $31,410 and up by almost 90 per cent since the start of the year. Other cryptocurrencies followed suit, with Ether also rallying.

It’s a remarkable development – and show of resiliency – for a market that many had written off as being on the verge of extinction following a number of high-profile and high-impact scams and company fallouts that left the industry besmirched among investors.

“From the ardent Bitcoiner’s perspective, the token’s most fundamental investment thesis is playing out: inflation, monetary mismanagement, banking crises, sovereign debt anxiety, US-dollar-reserve-status questions are all playing a role in giving Bitcoiners an ‘I told you so’ moment,” said Strahinja Savic, head of data and analytics at FRNT Financial.

“I would not describe rallying to new all-time highs despite the challenging environment, but rather because of it.”

Most recently, it’s been news about BlackRock’s shock filing for a US spot Bitcoin exchange-traded fund that’s reignited fervour for crypto, with some in the market hoping that such a product – which currently doesn’t exist – gets approval from regulators.

An approval – whatever its odds – would mark a win for fans who have for years longed for such an investment product.

“BlackRock’s filing is big news for Bitcoin due to its close ties with regulators and a very strong ETF-approval track record,” wrote K33’s Bendik Schei and Vetle Lunde.

“It’s also worth noting that BlackRock would not dedicate time and resources to this filing if they did not view the probability of long-term strength from BTC, and thus strong inflows, as substantially high.”

They added: “An approval would profoundly impact the market structure of Bitcoin, as it would reduce the barriers for financial advisers to offer exposure to BTC through an accessible investment vehicle with daily creations and redemptions delivered by a trusted issuer.”

What is Bitcoin and how did it start?

What is Bitcoin and how did it start?

Other recent news also reinforced crypto believers’ faith in the rally. A new crypto exchange backed by firms including Citadel Securities, Fidelity Digital Assets and Charles Schwab – called EDX Markets – said it’s gone live. And, among other pieces of news, JP Morgan Chase expanded one of the most high-profile projects to bring blockchain technology to traditional banking, introducing euro-denominated payments for corporate clients using its JPM Coin.

“The effects of the so-called ‘crypto winter’ seem less persistent today than a year ago, as various jurisdictions and institutional players continue to embrace crypto-related initiatives,” David Duong, head of research at Coinbase, said in a recent note.

On Twitter, where a lot of crypto discourse takes place, a number of users cited FOMO – or the fear of missing out – as part of the recent price surge, whereby some investors jump into the market because they are watching others reap the benefits of the rally and want to take part in it.

But the fact that the industry is facing harsh regulatory oversight has not dissipated, despite all the renewed hype over prices surging.

The SEC has set its sights on the crypto space following last year’s numerous instances of scams and fallouts of once-vaunted companies, including FTX and a number of lenders. It’s led to a mass exit by retail investors in particular, who have collectively lost billions of dollars in the wake of the revelations and implosions.

Trading volumes have dried up as a result. In May, the combined spot and derivatives trading volumes on centralised exchanges fell more than 15 per cent to $2.4 trillion, according to CCData. Spot trading volumes alone dropped nearly 22 per cent to $495 billion, notching the lowest monthly reading since March 2019, the researcher said in a report.

“People are speculating BlackRock’s heft in the financial markets will help them get approval. I am not quite there yet,” said Michael O’Rourke, chief market strategist at JonesTrading. “The SEC has been aggressively cracking down on the crypto space, it seems a bit early for such an about-face.”

Updated: June 23, 2023, 5:40 PM