Bitcoin tops US$12,000 level for first time since January 2018

Bitcoin continued its torrid rally yesterday, surpassing the US$12,000 (S$16,200) level for the first time in almost a year and a half.

The largest crypto currency was trading close to US$13,000 yesterday, and is now up 240 per cent since the start of the year, although still below its all-time high of nearly US$20,000.

Crypto currencies have been gaining acceptance and attracting more interest from mainstream institutions, with JPMorgan Chase & Co seeing client interest in a coin for bond transactions and Facebook making plans for a crypto currency called Libra.

The last time bitcoin climbed above US$12,000 was in December 2017. It rose much higher, eventually hitting US$19,511 later in the same month, but the surge was followed by a precipitous fall that saw it drop below US$6,000 by the following February.

All in all, in December 2017 and January 2018, bitcoin spent about six weeks above US$12,000.

Meanwhile, Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell on Tuesday said the US central bank will be closely scrutinising Facebook's newly announced Libra with an eye towards potentially regulating the virtual coin.

  • 240%

    Bitcoin is up this percentage since the start of the year, although still below its all-time high of nearly US$20,000.

Mr Powell became the latest official to voice concern over the global virtual currency unveiled last week by Facebook and an array of partners which aims to lower transaction costs and bring more services to people without access to the banking system.

"We're looking at it very carefully," Mr Powell said at an event sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations.

"Given the possible scale of it, I think that our expectations from a consumer protection standpoint, from a regulatory standpoint, are going to be very, very high."

The Libra coin plan, backed by financial and non-profit partners, represents an ambitious new initiative for the world's biggest social network with the potential to bring crypto money out of the shadows and into the mainstream.

But the plan has already prompted calls in Europe for close regulatory scrutiny, and several US lawmakers have said they want more information from Facebook.

BLOOMBERG, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 27, 2019, with the headline 'Bitcoin tops US$12,000 level for first time since January 2018'. Print Edition | Subscribe