Bitcoin nears record high of $10,000 a piece

By Elliot Bullman

Virtual currency Bitcoin is at a record high of $9,700 after jumping 4.5% on Monday.

The move takes it to 20% above the level it stood at on Friday, according to theLuxembourg-based Bitcoin exchange, Bitstamp. It started the year at around $1,000.

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Virtual currencies are largely unregulated and bypass traditional banking systems. Their growth is of increasing concern to international regulators.

China and South Korea have banned any new virtual currency launches and have been shutting down exchanges on which they are traded.b

JP Morgan Chase's chief executive, Jamie Dimon, described Bitcoin at a recent conference as "a fraud".

"It's just not a real thing, eventually it will be closed," he said.

bitcoin

Currencies such as Bitcoin useblockchain, which is an online ledger of transactions maintained by a networkof anonymous computers on the internet.

They are not backed by any government, nor central bank and therefore there is no-one responsible for backing their value.

European Central Bank policymaker Ewald Nowotny told Reuters news agency that Bitcoin "could easily blow up, and central banks could then be accused of not doing anything.

"So we're trying to understand whether bank activity in relation to crypto-currency trading needs to be better regulated."

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Some banks are looking at whether the blockchain technology that underpins cryptocurrencies could be of use to them as the world moves further away from cash transactions.

The world's leading derivatives exchange, the CME, said recently it planned to offer trading in Bitcoin futures in the near future, although it has not yet set a date. The potential involvement of CME has spurred the price of Bitcoin higher.

Bitcoin is particularly susceptible to rumour. There is also concern over Bitcoin’s vulnerability to hackers.

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