It's Been a Wild Week for Cryptocurrencies -- Have They Finally Stabilized?

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Something extremely rare is happening in the typically volatile cryptocurrency markets on Friday. The three largest cryptocurrencies, bitcoin (BTC-USD), Ethereum (ETH-USD), and Ripple (XRP-USD) have all changed by less than 2% over the past 24 hours. Just to give you an idea of how volatile they usually are, I've been writing daily updates on cryptocurrencies for about a month, and this is the first time that has happened.

After a massive crash early in the week, cryptocurrencies rebounded with a vengeance on Thursday, and now seem to have stabilized. Here's the latest price action from the cryptocurrency markets, and a recap of the week's wild ride.

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Today's cryptocurrency prices

Here's a look at the five largest cryptocurrencies by market capitalization, and how much each has changed over the past 24 hours, as well as the weekly highs and lows.

As you can see, although the major cryptocurrencies are rather quiet today, there have been some big swings. Bitcoin (BTC-USD) traded in a roughly $4,800 range throughout the week, and Ripple's (XRP-USD) weekly high was more than double its low. Ethereum (ETH-USD), which recently hit its all-time high, spent much of the week below the key $1,000 level.

In a nutshell, the cause of the volatility was the prospect of new government regulations on cryptocurrencies. Specifically, it was reported that major cryptocurrency hotspot South Korea was considering a bill that would ban cryptocurrency trading, and China expressed its intention to further crack down on centralized trading activities.

A major cryptocurrency crashed this week -- but investors were warned

One other major cryptocurrency story that may have added to the volatility was the closing of the BitConnect (BCC-USD) exchange.

BitConnect is a cryptocurrency lending service. The short version of the concept is that users could convert bitcoin into BitConnect's currency (BCC-USD), which would then be lent out and would earn the lenders enormous returns – up to 40% per month. As a result, the BCC currency shot up to a high of $479.30 on Dec. 28, 2017 and was more recently trading in the $300 ballpark.

Well, on Tuesday BitConnect (BCC-USD) announced that it was shutting down its lending service immediately and would also close its exchange service within five days. As you might expect, the currency fell off a cliff, bottoming out below $7. It has slightly rebounded to $29 in the days since, but it's safe to assume that many BitConnect investors are sitting on massive losses.

To be fair, BitConnect had been accused of running a Ponzi scheme on several occasions, and by several highly regarded industry experts.

Even so, this incident reinforces the importance of doing due diligence before investing in any "up-and-coming" cryptocurrency, blockchain-focused business, or initial coin offering (ICO). And it's also important to realize that no matter how much research you do about a cryptocurrency investment, the cryptocurrency industry is still very much in its "Wild West" phase, and it's entirely possible that you could lose your entire investment.

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Matt Frankel has no position in any cryptocurrencies mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any cryptocurrencies mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.