Bitcoin hits new high amid futures market plan

Bitcoin is surging to an all-time high following an announcement by CME Group that it plans to launch futures in the currency by the end of the financial year.

The digital cash hit a value of over £4,780 ($6,338) on Tuesday afternoon – an increase of almost 50% since September – with gains of more than 710% since Halloween in 2016.

It followed an announcement by CME, the world’s largest futures market operator, saying that it plans to sell the derivative based on the value of Bitcoin in the future.

The Bitcoin futures contract will be settled in cash at an exchange based upon CME’s own Bitcoin reference rate, which values the cryptocurrency against the dollar.

Its value has recovered since September when a crackdown in China, prompted by fears of fraud connected to similar technologies, caused it to crash below £2,200 ($3,000).

It has come a long way since 22 July 2010, when Laszlo Hanyecz made the first purchase of physical goods using Bitcoin, spending 10,000 on two pizzas.

Video: How many bitcoins is this £17m house worth?

The same amount today would cover a Notting Hill mansion valued at £17m – and despite fears of a bubble, the sellers of 4 Stanley Gardens are only accepting bids in the digital cash.

Bitcoin was presented to the world as a peer-to-peer electronic cash system nine years ago when a person or group known as “Satoshi Nakamoto” presented a white paper describing the cash to a cryptography mailing list.

The identity of Satoshi Nakamoto is unknown – and although a number of individuals have claimed to have been behind the creation of Bitcoin, their claims have not withstood rigorous analysis.

Fears of a bubble and the difficulties of describing Bitcoin in terms of traditional asset classes have drawn much criticism from onlookers.

Its obvious volatility and popularity with dark web marketplaces offering illicit items has made many investors wary.

Last month the chairman and chief executive of JPMorgan Chase, Jamie Dimon, described Bitcoin as a “fraud” and told his company’s investors it was “worse than tulip bulbs”.

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