Bitcoin touched new highs on Thursday, rising more than 15 per cent from $12,653 as markets opened to smash through $16,500 by late afternoon trading.
This put one day gains on the cryptocurrency to 31 per cent – an almost unprecedented gain for a currency or financial asset. In comparison the UK pound has risen 0.15 per cent against the US dollar over the past 24 hours and 6 per cent over the past year.
This meteoric rise suggests waves of money from private investors are entering the market, with even the market shy potentially encouraged by the astronomic gains seen over the past year.
On 9 December 2016 a single Bitcoin was trading at $770. At the current price of $16,577, this represents a 2,053 per cent return.
On the price spike seen over the past day, Yann Quelenn, analyst at European online bank Swissquote, said: “Bitcoin is absolutely crazy right now. The retail markets is rushing in, everyone thinks they are going to get rich quickly – it’s a gold rush.”
However, while some analysts and investment professionals see this as cause for concern, Mr Quelenn sees no sign of the rally abating.
He said: “Everyone is talking about Bitcoin – everyone is buying – but that doesn’t mean this is going to explode or retrace. The real Christmas rally in not in stocks and shares – it’s in bitcoin.”
Quelenn believes the currency will almost certainly reach $20,000 by the end of the year. Over the longer term, while the analyst says he expects there to be significant volatility, he believes Bitcoin will reach six figures by 2019/20.
“The fundamental driver is trust. People distrust banks but they trust the blockchain and they trust Bitcoin. Over the next two to three years we see it going to $100,000. In the meantime there will be some nasty retracements, but we see $100,000, definitely.”
On whether or not the analyst would recommend his mother invest in the online currency, Mr Quelenn answered: “Absolutely. I told my friends to invest six months ago.”
Kit Carson, head of banking and fintech at UK based GlobalData, however, is of a different mind – stating that he has not recommended the online currency to anyone and was sceptical of such high price level claims.
He said: “With something like the Hong Kong Dollar (HKD) an investor knows what they are buying and can be confident that it is controlled, in this case by the Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA), which sets interest rates. Value is based on a clearly understood and transparent entity, the performance of the Hong Kong economy.
“However, nobody knows what the levers are for Bitcoin or whether it is a currency to be traded or an asset to be held onto.
“What’s driving this is basic greed and supply and demand. If it got anywhere close to the valuations predicted you would see regulators jump on it and try to put a stop on it.”
Mr Carson did, however, admit that regulating the currency would be difficult.
He said: “The UK Financial Conduct Authority couldn’t act independently of other regulators – it’s a digital currency so what’s to stop you going and buying on an exchange in Australia or an exchange in the US. It’s going to need to be a co-ordinated effort in terms of where it goes.
“With the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) choosing not to approve a Bitcoin exchange-traded fund (ETF) application in 2017 all eyes are now on other regulators to see how they will manage cryptocurrency’s going forward.”