Bitcoin hits $60,000 - as all-time high nears

Bitcoin has hit $60,000 for the first time since November 2021 - putting the cryptocurrency in touching distance of a new record-high.

One Bitcoin cost $60,650 at one point early on Wednesday afternoon, after days of huge rises.

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It was close to the all-time high of $67,707 recorded on 9 November 2021, when many people turned to the digital asset in the pandemic.

After a collapse in price in late 2022, it has witnessed a resurgence - in large part due to new products in the US that allow people to track the value of Bitcoin without owning it, something known as an exchange traded fund (ETF).

Bitcoin has risen by 42% since 2024 began and 20% since Saturday. The latest highs have not been seen since November 2021.

Famed for its volatility, figures from the UK's Financial Conduct Authority suggest almost five million Britons have purchased cryptocurrencies - but in the year to April 2022, 45% of them suffered a loss.

In pound terms, Bitcoin is currently trading at about £47,800 - and a new record would be set if the digital asset surpasses £53,000.

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The latest value surge comes ahead of the next bitcoin "halving" event, coming in April, whereby the number of new Bitcoin entering the market is going to be permanently cut by 50%.

That process is designed to slow the release of bitcoin, whose supply is capped at 21 million tokens - of which 19 million have already been created.

Roughly 900 new Bitcoins are created every day, but this is to be cut to 450.

Bitcoin rallied on the previous three halvings, most recently in 2020.

Analysts have also said "overall renewed optimism around the asset class" has given values a boost, according to Bivu Das, the UK managing director of crypto trading platform Kraken.

Slowed trading activity in recent weeks was also suggested as a factor.

"The price surge comes after a week of consolidation which may have to be down to a slow-down in the amount of bitcoin being bought by the spot ETFs versus prior weeks," Simon Peters, crypto analyst at financial services company eToro said.

A security breach at the US financial market regulator prompted a jump in Bitcoin prices in the first weeks of the year.

An unauthorised and false post from the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) X account, formally known as Twitter, said that it had granted "approval for #Bitcoin ETFs for listing on all registered national securities exchanges".

Bitcoin is not controlled by a company or central bank and is liable to price rises and crashes.