Bitcoin passes USD60,000 mark for first time

PARIS (AFP) – Bitcoin passed the USD60,000 mark for the first time on Saturday, with analysts saying the giant United States (US) stimulus package helped boost the world’s most popular virtual currency on its record-breaking run.

The cryptocurrency hit USD60,197 at 1234 GMT and continued to hover around USD60,000, according to the website CoinMarketCap.

Bitcoin has tripled in value over the last three months – it was worth USD20,000 in December – bolstered by increasing backing from corporate heavyweights. Markets.com analyst Neil Wilson said that in recent days “Bitcoin went up as investors looked to the imminent arrival of stimulus cheques”.

Individuals in the US earning up to USD75,000 received a cheque for USD1,400 from this weekend, after President Joe Biden signed his USD1.9 trillion COVID-19 rescue plan into law this week.

Bitcoin has been on a meteoric rise since March last year, when it stood at USD5,000, spurred by online payments giant PayPal saying it would allow account holders to
use cryptocurrency.

Last month Elon Musk’s electric carmaker Tesla invested USD1.5 billion in the virtual unit, while Twitter chief Jack Dorsey and rap mogul Jay-Z said they are creating a fund aimed at making Bitcoin “the Internet’s currency”.

Others jumping on the bandwagon include Wall Street player BNY Mellon, investment fund giant BlackRock and credit card titan Mastercard.

Bitcoin, which was launched back in 2009, hit the headlines in 2017 after soaring from less than USD1,000 in January to almost USD20,000 in December of the same year.

The virtual bubble then burst in subsequent days, with bitcoin’s value fluctuating wildly before sinking below USD5,000 by October 2018.

However the last year’s rise has been more steady, with investors and Wall Street finance giants wooed by dizzying growth, the opportunity for profit and asset diversification, and a safe store of value to guard against inflation.

Bitcoins are traded via a decentralised registry system known as a blockchain.

The system requires massive computer processing power to manage and implement transactions. That power is provided by “miners”, who do so in the hope they will receive new bitcoins for validating transaction data.