The price of bitcoin has broken through $19,000 for the first time in almost three years, taking the world’s biggest cryptocurrency close to its all-time high of just under $20,000.
Bitcoin has surged by almost 40% in November and is up about 160% this year. It reached a peak of just under $20,000 in December 2017, before crashing spectacularly, losing a quarter of its value in a single day.
Analysts and investors say the coronavirus pandemic has led to a reassessment of bitcoin’s value as an alternative currency, and even as an alternative to gold. As the US dollar and other currencies have weakened, more investors are turning to cryptocurrency as protection against inflation.
Rick Rieder, the chief investment officer of Blackrock, the world’s largest asset manager, said last Friday that cryptocurrencies, including bitcoin, were “here to stay”. He said millennials were happily embracing new technologies – although he himself has not bought much bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies.
“But do I think it is a durable mechanism that could replace gold to a large extent? Yeah I do, because it’s so much more functional than passing a bar of gold around,” he told CNBC’s Squawk Box.
PayPal has launched a crypto trading service on its platform, and has reportedly bought nearly 70% of all new bitcoin in circulation. Its chief executive, Dan Schulman, said the pandemic had accelerated the shift to digital forms of payments.
A number of hedge fund managers, including the US billionaire Paul Tudor Jones, who predicted and profited from the 1987 stock market crash, have revealed in recent months that they have invested in bitcoin. Jones, who runs Tudor Investment Corp, has been recommending the cryptocurrency to his clients as a hedge against inflation, with the US Federal Reserve expected to keep interest rates at zero. Congress has resumed its negotiations over a massive stimulus package for the US economy.
Cryptocurrencies are notoriously volatile, and other digital currencies have also regained popularity in recent months, such as Ethereum, Litecoin and XRP, as investors reviewed their long-term prospects.