Bitcoin rallied to a record Wednesday, topping $66,000 for the first time, amid a wave of excitement about how the financial establishment is increasingly accepting the digital currency's rise.
Bitcoin was trading at $66,439, up 5.9%, as of 12:40 p.m. Eastern time, after earlier climbing as high as $66,974.77. It has roared back after sinking below $30,000 during the summer to top its prior record set in April. That previous all-time high was nearly $64,889, according to CoinDesk.
The surge has come as more businesses, professional investors and even the government of El Salvador buy into Bitcoin, further broadening its base beyond its initial core of fanatics.
The latest converts came into the world of crypto on Tuesday, when the first exchange-traded fund linked to Bitcoin found huge interest from investors. Shares of the ProShares BitCoin Strategy ETF changed hands 24.1 million times in a resounding debut. It was off to another strong start Wednesday, with volume topping 19.6 million within the first three hours of trading.
The ETF doesn’t invest directly in Bitcoin. It instead invests in the futures market tied to Bitcoin, but the industry sees the ETF bringing in a new class of investors. Someone with an old-school brokerage account can buy the ETF, for example, without having to open a trading account for crypto.
Investors are getting more interested in Bitcoin because they're always looking for assets whose prices moves independently of everything else in their portfolios. One school of thought says Bitcoin can offer investors protection from high inflation, and some fans see it as akin to “digital gold,” though it doesn't have a long track record to back that up.
More high-minded fans say digital assets are simply the future of finance, allowing transactions to sidestep middlemen and fees with a currency that’s not beholden to any government.
Cryptocurrencies are still very far from winning over everyone, though. Critics point to how they're still not widely used as forms of payment. They also criticize how much energy is used by the crypto system, which adds to climate-changing emissions. The biggest threat, meanwhile, is all the regulatory scrutiny shining on it.
Additional reporting by The Associated Press.