Global Markets Quiet; Busy Day for Bitcoin -- Update

By Kenan Machado Features Dow Jones Newswires

Bitcoin's wild swings after a morning plunge occupied center stage in Wednesday's trading session in Asia, as equities markets didn't move much through midday.

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The cryptocurrency's price--which had been trading just below $19,000 Tuesday--fell $2,000 in an hour to $15,600, according to CoinDesk. It then bounced up and down in a roughly $1,000 range, and was recently around $17,000.

Analysts blamed the swings on money moving from bitcoin to an alternative cryptocurrency called Bitcoin Cash. One of the biggest exchanges, Coinbase, started trading Bitcoin Cash on Wednesday morning--but halted activity after just four minutes.

Bitcoin Cash's price surged nearly 50% to about $3,250, according to coinmarketcap.com. It is up more than 10-fold since its debut in August.

Given the relatively wider acceptance of bitcoin, the correction is liable to attract those who've been watching its price surge of the past several weeks with both awe and disbelief, said Kay Van-Petersen, a global macro and crypto strategist at Saxo Capital Markets in Singapore.

There was much less action in other Asian markets.

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Most major stock indexes were within 0.2% of Tuesday's finishes, though Malaysia's benchmark rebounded 0.8%, recovering from a decline of that size a day earlier--its second-largest drop of 2017. Indonesia's JSX index retreated 0.8% after setting a fourth-straight record closing high Tuesday.

Meanwhile, New Zealand's main metric ended down 0.2%, preventing it from notching another record close, as Australia's was seeking another 10-year best.

Declines in the yen weren't boosting Japanese stocks much, with the Nikkei barely higher. The dollar was recently at Yen112.95 versus Yen112.59 when local stock trading ended Tuesday.

But bank stocks there were rebounding further on fresh overnight gains in bond yields. Ten-year Treasurys had their highest yield in nine months at 2.464% in late Tuesday New York trading, and were recently at 2.448%.

Oil futures rose modestly in Asia after an industry group estimated that U.S. crude inventories fell more last week than what is expected in a Wednesday government release. February WTI futures were up 0.3%.

Gregor Stuart Hunter contributed to this article.

Write to Kenan Machado at kenan.machado@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

December 19, 2017 23:39 ET (04:39 GMT)