Paris: Bitcoin, the best known of hundreds of ‘virtual’ coins, slumped Tuesday to a six-week low below $12,000 as analysts blamed a rush by various jurisdictions to regulate the sector.
The final weeks of last year were marked by bitcoin mania as the unit topped $20,000, but it lost some 20 percent in Tuesday trading which saw most of its fellow cryptocurrencies similarly wilt.
“Bitcoin has dropped below $12,000, a level not seen since early December. The cryptocurrency has fallen nearly 40 percent since its all-time high,” noted David Madden, market analyst with CMC Markets.
According to crypto exchange coinmarketcap.com, other major virtual currencies ethereum, ripple and bitcoin cash, a clone which split from the original last year, posted double-digit losses by early afternoon.
“Explaining moves in bitcoin is always tricky but this plunge … may well be a result of recent signs that regulatory pressures are building,” said Neil Wilson, analyst for ETX Capital, as several countries, notably China and South Korea, target a crackdown.
Last week saw prices sag after the South Korean government said it was planning to ban cryptocurrency exchanges — though it later backtracked — while Justice Minister Park Sang-Ki said Seoul was preparing a bill to shut down the country’s virtual coin exchanges to slam the brakes on a craze which “has started to resemble gambling and speculation.”
South Korea is a hotbed for cryptocurrency trading, accounting for some 20 percent of global bitcoin transactions, while much of the “mining” — computerised creation — of the coin units is undertaken in China.