Bitcoin hits record above $66,000 on Wall Street debut

The virtual unit, created 13 years ago and long regarded as the preserve of internet geeks and hobbyists, has been embraced by many major banks.

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LONDON - Bitcoin surged Wednesday to a record above $66,000 after taking another step towards mainstream status as the world's most popular cryptocurrency forayed onto Wall Street.

A bitcoin futures exchange-traded fund (ETF), a type of financial instrument, launched on the New York Stock Exchange on Tuesday.

The news electrified demand for the cryptocurrency, which scaled an all-time pinnacle of $66,976 in London on Wednesday.

The virtual unit, created 13 years ago and long regarded as the preserve of internet geeks and hobbyists, has been embraced by many major banks.

The new fund is a more accessible vehicle that puts bitcoin within the grasp of even more investors.

"Interest in bitcoin in the wake of yesterday's new ETF launch has helped to push the cryptocurrency to a new record high," said CMC Markets analyst Michael Hewson.

"Bitcoin is more or less mainstream already with various banks offering clients exposure to it.

"This merely takes it to the next level," he told AFP.

The Bitcoin Strategy ETF rose nearly five percent in its first day of trading on Tuesday.

Bitcoin itself has now gained more than 50 percent over the last month -- and an astonishing 450 percent over the past year.

This week's stellar gains have also sparked talk of hitting $100,000 in the coming months.

"The party is on," summarised AvaTrade analyst Naeem Aslam.

"The fact is that this is only a beginning as investors.

"Given the price momentum we are seeing on the back of bitcoin's ETF, we believe that bitcoin can easily go all the way to $100,000 by the end of this year."

Investors should however remain cautious over the volatile unit, Oanda analyst Craig Erlam told AFP.

"The ETF is an incredibly important move to getting mainstream investors on board," said Erlam.

"That is not to say there will suddenly be a pile into bitcoin -- it's still a highly speculative and volatile instrument.

"But it's a step in the right direction for an asset class that's craving institutional acceptance."

The unit had hit its prior record of $64,870 in April, ahead of the Nasdaq debut of cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase - but plunged in May on Chinese regulatory concerns.

China has cracked down on trading and mining cryptocurrencies, which are created through solving complex equations - an endeavour that consumes enormous amounts of energy.

Bitcoin was meanwhile buoyed in September after it became legal tender in El Salvador in a world first.

Many central banks remain sceptical over bitcoin because of its shadowy nature and the fact that it remains unregulated, while criminals have in the past been attracted to its under-the-radar appeal.

The new Wall Street fund could help address those concerns, according to XTB analyst Walid Koudmani.

The ETF "is a big step for cryptos overall since it opens the possibility for many traditional investors who were reluctant to enter the market due to associated risks such as lack of regulation and the underlying security risks", he said.

"This, along with the increasing media interest in the crypto space, could boost demand and bring a new wave of liquidity in the markets which could ultimately push prices to new highs."

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