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Cryptocurrencies

Bitcoin breaks $30,000 barrier for first time

Rally continues to gain steam in New Year

Bitcoin is riding a wave of investment into the new year.   © Reuters

TOKYO -- The price of digital currency Bitcoin topped $30,000 for the first time Saturday, riding a wave of investment into the new year.

The blockchain-based currency was trading at $32,363, with a 24-hour gain of more than 10%, according to cryptocurrency tracker Coindesk.

Since crossing the $20,000 threshold on Dec. 16, the currency has gained over $10,000 in value. Bitcoin's market capitalization now stands at $600 billion, according to Coindesk.

Bitcoin has benefited from global glut of investment money unleashed by monetary easing. Its recent rally is marked by an active influx of institutional investors, further brining the digital currency into the mainstream.

Since its inception about 10 years ago, Bitcoin has rode a roller coaster of highs and lows. The currency was created and is exchanged independently of banks or governments.

Along with other so-called cryptocurrencies, it uses blockchain technology, which works like a chain of digital "blocks" that contain records of transactions. Each such block is connected to those before and behind it, making it difficult to hack because to do so one would need to change the block containing that record and all those linked to it to avoid detection.

As with actual currencies, bitcoin trading continued over the New Year holiday while stock and bond markets were closed. Ethereum, another leading cryptocurrency, was trading at $775 for a more than 5% one-day gain.

While some observers say the market is overheating, not all of the interest is speculative.

In a boost for actual demand for the currency, online payments provider PayPal said in October that it would allow customers to use cryptocurrencies to shop at 26 million associated retailers from early 2021.

This news helped lift Bitcoin over the $16,000 mark for the first time in nearly three years.

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