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Bitcoin surged in price this week after already being on an upswing for the past few months. This was largely driven by two milestone events. First, FINCEN published guidelines on digital currency and specifically created a section for decentralized currency (Bitcoin). It made it clear that transfer of bitcoin among users or for purchases was perfectly legal and required no regulation. However, exchanges would have some addition oversight which may be cumbersome in the near term, but would likely help bring Bitcoin more into the open.
The second big even was the crisis in Cyprus which significantly undermined the confidence in the Euro. This has happened before where the crisis in Europe has pushed up the price of Bitcoins. Previously the thought was merely that Bitcoins were a natural inflation hedge like gold, but now, it is also an investable asset class with huge positive exchange rate momentum and cannot be restricted by capital controls. There were numerous reports of Bitcoins gaining popularity in Spain but we’re sure Greece and Italy are not far behind. With increasing talks of depositor bail-ins, capital controls are probably not far off. (See Data Focus for related stats)
Statistics show that online interest in Bitcoin has spiked in the recent months, some predict that price will continue to climb in 2013. The currency broke through an all time high of $74 USD, Bitcoin’s market cap is now at 819 million USD.
Bitcoin was again mentioned on Boomberg TV by Sara Eisen who explained how Bitcoin is used and spoke on Bloomberg TV’s “Market Makers”. We are also seeing an increasing number of positive news in the bitcoin community as more and more merchants around the world start to see the value of Bitcoin and accept it as a payment method.
Data Focus: This week we attempt to quantify the impact of the interest out of Europe. While the share of Bitcoins traded against the Euro only increased from 13.4% in Feb to 14.5% month to date, the share of the exchanges changed dramatically. Mt.Gox’s Euro market share dropped 10%, while BTC-24 shows a significant increase from 15% to 36%.