Bitcoin surges to new record high; mainstream money flows into crypto

Allison Morrow, CNN | 3/5/2024, 9:57 a.m.
Bitcoin surged to an all-time high Tuesday, shaking off a more-than-two-year rut that had put the future of the entire …
Bitcoin surged to its all-time high on March 4, shaking off a more than two-year rut that put the future of the entire crypto ecosystem in question. Mandatory Credit: Ozan Kose/AFP/Getty Images via CNN Newsource

Bitcoin surged to an all-time high Tuesday, shaking off a more-than-two-year rut that had put the future of the entire crypto ecosystem in question.

Bitcoin, the world’s oldest — and by far the largest — digital currency, traded above $69,000 Tuesday morning, topping the previous record of $68,789 reached on November 10, 2021, according to CoinMarketCap.

Over the past several months, bitcoin’s rally has been turbocharged by US regulators’ approval of exchange-traded funds pegged to the digital asset, which created an on-ramp for more traditional investors to incorporate bitcoin into their portfolios.

That approval took years of lobbying by crypto firms, and was granted only grudgingly by the Securities and Exchange Commission after a court ruled the regulator’s reasons for rejecting bitcoin ETF applications were “arbitrary and capricious.”

The first 11 “spot” bitcoin ETFs — which track the real-time market price of the asset — launched in January.

After just a month, the ETFs had spurred more than $4.2 billion in net new flows, according to Bloomberg.

ETFs are investment tools that track a basket of assets but trade like a stock. Part of the appeal of a bitcoin ETF is that investors can get exposure to bitcoin through their usual brokerage firm, rather than having to set up a digital wallet through a cryptocurrency exchange.

Bitcoin is a bellwether for the broader $2 trillion crypto industry, whose reputation has been pummeled by a series of negative headline-making events: high-profile bankruptcies of exchanges and lenders, volatile price swings and the prosecution of Sam Bankman-Fried, a onetime crypto celebrity who was convicted in November of stealing billions of dollars from customers on his FTX exchange, which collapsed in late 2022.

“To fully appreciate this new record, we need to acknowledge the cascade of events that shook the crypto market to the core in 2022 and 2023 and marvel at bitcoin’s ability to perennially bounce back from adversity,” said Antoni Trenchev, co-founder of crypto lender Nexo Capital, in a statement Tuesday.

Bitcoin, which accounts for more than half of all cryptos in circulation, is up more than 200% over the past 12 months, according to CoinMarketCap.

The bitcoin rally has also been fueled by the crypto faithful, who are anticipating even more gains this spring following an event known as the “halving.” Roughly every four years, the number of bitcoin entering circulation gets cut in half — a built-in feature of the cryptocurrency, which is finite by design. As bitcoin approaches scarcity, the value is expected to rise.

The timing of bitcoin’s new record is noteworthy, Trenchev said, because the asset usually hits a new high after the halving. But the ETF bump accelerated the rally.

“This could mean we are facing an earlier, sharper and shorter bull cycle — followed by a painful and drawn-out bust,” he said.