BITCOIN SOARS ABOVE $1,600 ON RELENTLESS JAPANESE BUYING FRENZY

[5/4/17]  Four days ago we reported that bitcoin has surged above $1,400, hitting a new lifetime high, while rising above $1,500 on certain Chinese exchanges. Since then, bitcoin’s latest exponential rise has only accelerated, and moments ago the price of the cryptocurrency surged as high as $1,600 on the Coinbase exchange, rising as high as $1,655 on the troubled Bitfinex exchange.

What is prompting this relentless surge in Bitcoin?

Several things.

The first, as we noted on Monday,  was “plain old supply and demand.” While unclear if the result of a regulatory crackdown seen recently in Chinese-based exchanges, Hong-Kong based Bitfinex and some other crypto exchanges in the industry “have been dealing with liquidity and withdrawal issues the past few weeks.” Specifically, Bitfinex had trouble processing transactions after the Taiwanese banks that handle them started blocking requests. That’s part of a trend where some banks are pulling out of sectors they deem risky. A representative from the exchange had confirmed to the WSJ that the inability of investors to withdraw bitcoin is affecting the price. Perversely, instead of forcing the price of bitcoin lower, the liquidity squeeze was forcing traders to offer higher bids to get their bitcoin out, which is subsequently forcing the price up.

Then, there is Japan.

As we observed previously, according to Japan’s Nikkei more than 10 Japanese companies are launching exchanges for bitcoin and other virtual currencies, with an eye to tap growing demand after legal changes that make such trades cheaper and easier in the country. As discussed previously, starting July, Japan’s consumption tax will no longer apply to purchases of virtual currencies. Exchanges in Japan have also been required since April to obtain a special license, which has requirements for finances and asset management structures, from the Finance Ministry.

One example: SBI Holdings has set up SBI Virtual Currencies, an exchange between the yen and cryptocurrencies like bitcoin and that of the Ethereum platform. The GMO Internet group is also establishing its own company, with plans to increase the number of digital currencies it trades based on demand. Kabu.com Securities and foreign exchange trader Money Partners Group plan to enter the field as well.