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Bitcoin doubles for 2023, tops $35,000


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The price of bitcoin briefly topped $35,000 for the first time since May 2022, bolstered by positive sentiment about a bitcoin exchange-traded fund and a flight to safety that led to a spike in short liquidations.

On Tuesday bitcoin was up by more than 11% at $34,750.10, according to Coin Metrics. Late Monday night it rose as high as $35,113.29, its highest level since May 8, 2022. The rally brings bitcoin up almost 110% from both the start of the year and its 2022 low.

The rally could be fueled in part by investors who were betting against the crypto asset scrambling to cover short positions, in other words, by a short squeeze. Bitcoin saw $275.45 million in short liquidations on Sunday, followed by another $100.44 million Monday, according to crypto data provider CoinGlass.

“The real catalyst that created the ‘god candle’ [Monday] and pushed bitcoin above $34,000 was the $167 million in short liquidations, mainly on offshore exchanges,” Ryan Rasmussen, analyst at Bitwise Asset Management, told CNBC. “I don’t think anyone expected the level of price action we’re seeing, and those investors who were shorting bitcoin in the $33,000 plus range are certainly feeling the pain of that surprise.”

Last week, the SEC declined to appeal a court ruling by a key deadline in Grayscale’s lawsuit against it, sparking hopes a bitcoin-related ETF may be approved in the next few months. Momentum built as firms in the bitcoin ETF running updated their filings and major investors like Ark’s Cathie Wood and Galaxy’s Mike Novogratz emphasized that the SEC’s tone has shifted and that it’s now engaging positively with the industry.

A bitcoin ETF would give investors a way to gain exposure to bitcoin’s price movements without owning the cryptocurrency directly. Bitcoin is considered a highly volatile asset, and its price fluctuations are unpredictable.

Major financial institutions such as BlackRock, Invesco, Fidelity and Grayscale have been pushing for bitcoin ETFs and submitted applications to sell such assets, portraying them as safer investment options compared to direct crypto investments known for their speculative nature and price volatility.

Coinbase told CNBC it is confident that a U.S. bitcoin exchange-traded fund will be approved by the U.S. SEC.

Investors watching closely

The crypto industry is closely watching such developments that could point to a comeback.

Over the past year, the sector has been embroiled in scandals and high drama such as FTX’s bankruptcy and Terraform and its CEO Do Kwon being charged in February for defrauding investors.

Bitcoin price reached an all-time high in November 2021, with values exceeding over $65,000 at that time. However, a year later, the value plummeted to around $16,000 in November last year. That was when Sam Bankman-Fried’s crypto exchange FTX collapsed and filed for bankruptcy.

The SEC has been cracking down on crypto firms, with companies such as Coinbase and Ripple embroiled in lawsuits with the SEC, which has accused them of violations in securities laws.

Both Coinbase and Ripple, as well as other crypto firms, have slammed the U.S. for a lack of clarity around crypto regulations and threatened to leave the country in response to the SEC’s crackdown.

— CNBC’s Ryan Browne contributed to this story.

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