Bitcoin steams to new record, hits $1 trillion market cap

The digital currency was trading at just under $54,000 per coin on Friday, having gained around 350 percent over the past six months.

The Bitcoin booth at the International CES at the Las Vegas Convention Center in 2015.Ethan Miller / Getty Images fileFeb. 19, 2021, 6:26 PM EET / Updated Feb. 19, 2021, 6:28 PM EET / Source: ReutersBy Reuters

Bitcoin hit yet another record high on Friday, reaching a market capitalization of $1 trillion, blithely shrugging off analyst warnings that it is an “economic side show” and a poor hedge against a fall in stock prices.

Bitcoin’s gains have been fueled by signs it is winning acceptance among mainstream investors and companies, from Tesla and Mastercard to BNY Mellon.

Its latest gains took its market capitalization — all the bitcoin in circulation — to $1 trillion, according to cryptocurrency data website CoinMarketCap.

The digital currency was trading at just under $54,000 per coin on Friday, having gained around 350 percent over the past six months. 

Still, many analysts and investors remain skeptical of the patchily regulated and highly volatile digital asset, which is still little used for commerce.

Analysts at JPMorgan said bitcoin’s current prices were well above estimates of fair value. Mainstream adoption increases bitcoin’s correlation with cyclical assets, which rise and fall with economic changes, in turn reducing benefits of diversifying into crypto, the investment bank said in a memo.

“Crypto assets continue to rank as the poorest hedge for major drawdowns in equities, with questionable diversification benefits at prices so far above production costs, while correlations with cyclical assets are rising as crypto ownership is mainstreamed,” JPMorgan said.

Bitcoin is an “economic side show,” it added, calling innovation in financial technology and the growth of digital platforms into credit and payments “the real financial transformational story of the Covid-19 era.”

Other investors this week said bitcoin’s volatility presents a hurdle for its ambitions to become a widespread means of payment.

On Thursday, Tesla boss Elon Musk — whose tweets have fueled bitcoin’s rally — said owning the digital coin was only a little better than holding cash. He also defended Tesla’s recent purchase of $1.5 billion of bitcoin, which ignited mainstream interest in the digital currency.

Bitcoin proponents argue the cryptocurrency is “digital gold” that can hedge against the risk of inflation sparked by massive central bank and government stimulus packages designed to counter Covid.

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