Bitcoin is making its hottest start to a year since 2012.
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The largest cryptocurrency by market capitalization -- with a total value of $162 billion, according to CoinMarketCap.com -- has gained 23 percent so far this year, adding to its 87 percent gain in 2019.
The U.S.’ killing of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani was the “spark that gave the market confidence to start the fire,” said Mati Greenspan, founder of Quantum Economics. “The kindling had in fact been building for a while.”
Bitcoin was trading near $6,970 per digital coin -- a little less than 50 percent off its 2019 high above $12,000 -- before the killing of Soleiman, which sparked concern that the U.S. was on the verge of military conflict with the Islamic Republic. The cryptocurrency immediately surged above $7,200 and has gained more than 28 percent since the news of the general's death, trading at $8,913 as of Friday morning.
There are fundamental reasons for the gains, too, such as halving, expected this May. In halving, which happens roughly every four years, the amount of new bitcoin coin mined in each transaction is cut by 50 percent. The so-called mining that generates bitcoin involves algorithmic verification of deals in a digital open-source ledger known as blockchain.
“I honestly think this was just due to halving and we just happen to see it happening right now,” Kiana Danial, CEO of Investdiva.com and the author of “Cryptocurrency Investing for Dummies,” told FOX Business’ Maria Bartiromo.
The Chicago Mercantile Exchange’s launch of bitcoin options and a technical indicator pointing to more gains have aided the cryptocurrency's rise, too, she said. Greenspan, meanwhile, pointed to central banks loosening monetary policy. That typically devalues sovereign currencies and prompts investors to park their holdings elsewhere to retain value.
The Federal Reserve began cutting rates in the second half of 2019 and has restarted purchases of government securities to buoy short-term lending markets. The European Central Bank, the People’s Bank of China and the Bank of Japan are also in easing mode.
Greenspan believes all of the money “being created by the Fed and being pumped into the tech sector” is “trickling through to crypto market,” and that’s why riskier crypto assets are outperforming bitcoin, with some doubling or even tripling this year.
“It's been an incredible year for bitcoin and crypto,” he told FOX Business.
Despite bitcoin's gains, it has yet to approach its 2017 high of about $20,000, a peak followed by a precipitous slide to $3,400 the very next year, prompting increased government scrutiny. Nouriel Roubini, the economist known as Dr. Doom who accurately predicted the 2008 financial crisis, told the Senate Banking Committee in late 2018 that cryptocurrency represented the "mother of all scams."