Here’s Why Bitcoin and Bitcoin Cash Are Plunging, While Ripple Is Up Nearly 40%

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Bitcoin and most other cryptocurrencies aren't performing well Thursday, but bitcoin cash has fallen more sharply than most, down by nearly 20% on the day. Meanwhile, Ripple is going against the grain and has surged by nearly 40% thanks to surging trading volumes and rumors that it may soon be available on a major U.S. exchange.

Today's cryptocurrency prices

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Here's a look at the five largest cryptocurrencies by market capitalization, and how much each has changed over the past 24 hours, as of 2 p.m. EST.

Bitcoin continues to fall

Bitcoin hasn't had a great week. The leading cryptocurrency is down by nearly 8% today, as of the time of this writing, and has fallen by 16% over the past three days.

There's no immediately apparent reason for the fall, although there are several potential downside catalysts. For one thing, the recently opened trading in bitcoin futures could be causing downward pressure, since this is the first time investors have been able to short bitcoin. Or, this could simply be profit-taking, as bitcoin has risen tremendously this year. With the exception of Ripple, which I'll get to in a minute, cryptocurrency prices are largely down across the board, so that could be the case.

Bitcoin Cash retreats after big gains

I wrote Wednesday that Coinbase began allowing bitcoin cash to trade on its platform, which sent the bitcoin offshoot soaring, though it gave up some of its gains after trading was temporarily halted. Well, it appears that the euphoria continues to fizzle out, as bitcoin cash is down nearly another 20% today.

Ripple is skyrocketing

The big positive story of the day is Ripple, which shot up by 36% over the past 24 hours, and even eclipsed the key $1 level at one point. Ripple has been one of the top-performing cryptocurrencies lately, having announced a few key partnerships, including one with American Express to help the credit card giant achieve instant cross-border payments through blockchain technology.

Thursday's rally seems to be fueled, at least in part, by rumors that Coinbase may soon support the digital currency on its platform. Currently, it supports bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin, and bitcoin cash -- the other four of the five largest cryptocurrencies -- so Ripple would be a natural addition, especially considering the currency's mainstream corporate relationships.

In addition, trading activity in Ripple has spiked recently, particularly in Asian markets. Volumes have surged over the past 24 hours at several key Asian exchanges.

What to watch

Friday marks the end of the first full week of bitcoin futures trading on both major U.S. futures exchanges, and it will be interesting to see how things look in terms of trading volume and forward contract prices.

We'll also see if bitcoin cash remains volatile, or if it starts to settle down after a few days on Coinbase. And finally, Ripple enthusiasts will be watching to see if the up-and-coming major digital currency can hold above the key $1 level.

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Matthew Frankel owns shares of American Express. The Motley Fool recommends American Express. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.