CURRENCIES: Bitcoin, Ether Extend Gains, Even As Digital Currencies Take A Regulatory Hit

By Anora Mahmudova, MarketWatch Features Dow Jones Newswires

Bitcoin Cash retreats

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Bitcoin rose modestly on Thursday as the most prominent digital currency recovers from recent sharp declines that briefly put it into correction territory.

Moves for the cyber monetary unit come as Securities and Exchange Commission temporarily suspended trading (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/sec-halts-trading-in-first-bitcoin-capital-after-it-gained-more-than-6000-in-2017-2017-08-24) in the shares of First Bitcoin Capital Corp. (BITCF) because of concerns about the accuracy and adequacy of public information on the Canadian company.

Still, a single bitcoin rose 2.3% to $4,287.64, advancing for a third straight day, according to Coindesk.com data (https://www.coindesk.com/), and sending its total market value to about $70 billion, according to digital-currency research site Coinmarketcap.com (https://coinmarketcap.com/).

Despite recent advances, the digital currency, is still about 5% below its record set on Aug. 17, though year to date, it is up more than 300%.

Bitcoin prices have been volatile, largely due to issues surrounding the need to increase transaction sizes in the blockchain network. Traditional bitcoin participants agreed on a new protocol known as Segregated Witness, or SegWit., which they believe solves bitcoin's scaling issue.

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The adoption of SegWit hasn't been smooth, with a minority of users rejecting it, leading to the split of bitcoin that created Bitcoin Cash.

On Thursday, the price of Bitcoin Cash fell 1.6% to 649.32, bringing its market cap to $10.7 billion.

Ether tokens, the chief rival to bitcoin, which runs on the Ethereum network, was little changed on Thursday at $323.74. Ether on Wednesday rose 0.4% to $325, its highest level since June 23. While it remains below an all-time intraday high above $400 hit on June 12, it has more than doubled from a recent intraday low hit in mid-July. For 2017, it is up about 4,000%, bringing its market cap to $30.6 billion.

Read: This bitcoin $25,000 call is more proof of the cybercurrency bubble (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/bitcoin-25000-this-is-more-proof-of-the-cybercurrency-bubble-2017-08-18)

The recent advances in bitcoin, along with the recovery in Ether, brought the total market capitalization of all cryprtocurrencies above $150 billion. The basket of cybercurrencies tracked by Coinmarketcap.com first broke above $100 billion in early June, meaning the space has risen by half in a little more than two months.

Meanwhile, shares of Firtst Bitcoin Capital Corp traded at $1.79 before its halt. The stock traded at $0.05 at the start of the year and gained more than 6,000% year to date.

First Bitcoin Capital Corp. is a Canadian corporation that invests in companies that mine bitcoin and operates exchanges and digital wallets, according to their website. The suspension was effective Thursday 9:30 Eastern Tim until noon Sept. 7.

In other news, A regulatory arm of Canada on Thursday signaled a warning about so-called initial coin offerings, or ICOs (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/ethereum-co-founder-warns-icos-are-a-ticking-time-bomb-2017-07-18), which have spiked in popularity. The Canadian Securities Administrator, although acknowledging the benefits of raising funds by digital tokens, it said there are big risks (https://www.inc.com/john-koetsier/ico-bubble-startups-are-raising-hundreds-of-millio.html).

"However, they can also raise investor protection concerns, due to issues around volatility, transparency, valuation, custody and liquidity, as well as the use of unregulated cryptocurrency exchanges.Also, investors may be harmed by unethical practices or illegal schemes, and may not understand the properties of the investment products that they are purchasing," the CSA said, adding that it was monitoring developments in ICOs (http://www.osc.gov.on.ca/documents/en/Securities-Category4/csa_20170824_cryptocurrency-offerings.pdf).

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

August 24, 2017 11:36 ET (15:36 GMT)