Bitcoin tumbled over 9% on Friday, dragging smaller tokens down, after the discovery of a new, potentially vaccine-resistant coronavirus variant saw investors dump riskier assets for the perceived safety of bonds, the yen and the dollar.
Bitcoin, the largest digital currency, fell as much as 9.2% to $53,551, its lowest since Oct. 10. The second largest cryptocurrency ether fell over 13% to its lowest in a month as investors ditched cryptocurrencies.
Bitcoin, whose 13-year life has been peppered by bouts of extreme volatility, was on track for its biggest one-day drop since Sept. 20. It has slumped by more than a fifth since hitting a record high of almost $70,000 earlier this month.
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“The spread of (the variant), especially to other countries, could wither investor appetite further,” said Yuya Hasegawa at Tokyo-based exchange Bitbank. “BTC’s upside will likely be limited and the market should brace for further loss.”
Bitcoin hit an all-time high of $69,000 earlier this month as more large investors embraced cryptocurrencies, with many drawn to its purported inflation-resistant qualities.
Others have piled into the digital token on the promise of quick gains, a draw that has been heightened by record low or negative interest rates. Yet bitcoin’s volatility has lingered, drawing questions over its suitability as a stable store of value.
Ether was last at $3,924. It is down almost 20% from its record high hit on Nov. 10.
Reporting by Tom Wilson; editing by Carolyn Cohn, Kim Coghill, William Maclean