Bitcoin pushes beyond $16,000 as surge continues
Bitcoin's relentless rise continued on Thursday, shooting past the $16,000 (£12,000) mark and adding to fears of a dangerous market bubble.
According to Coindesk, the cryptocurrency touched an all-time high of $16,615.94 before paring gains to trade at $15,970.93 in the afternoon session.
Despite its value climbing more than 1,500% since the start of the year, financial heavyweights are divided over the digital currency's significance.
JP Morgan boss Jamie Dimon has branded Bitcoin a "fraud", while Christine Lagarde of the International Monetary Fund said "it may not be wise to dismiss virtual currencies".
Neil Wilson, ETX Capital analyst, said: "It's a bubble for sure in its dynamic, we just don't know when or how it will collapse."
He said Bitcoin was heading towards a "regulatory crunch", suggesting some investors were pushing up the price "while the going is good".
He added: "You're not going to regulate cryptos out of existence, nor would governments and central banks wish to stop blockchain technology.
"But they can regulate cryptos to a point where they destroy the value in any one version by taking control of it for themselves.
"If you say that cryptos are currency, then mining is akin to printing money, which is only a game for central banks and governments."
The Treasury has announced plans for closer scrutiny of the cryptocurrency as part of EU-wide plans that will require online platforms that trade in Bitcoin to carry out due diligence on customers and report suspicious transactions.
But that has not curbed excitement over its emerging investment opportunities.
US regulators have given the green light for three American exchanges to offer futures trading in the cryptocurrency, including the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) and the CBOE Futures Exchange (CFE).
Nasdaq is also considering offering Bitcoin futures in early 2018.
UK app Revolut said it will start offering cryptocurrency trading this week, with customers able to buy and exchange Bitcoin, Litecoin and Ether from Thursday.
Craig Erlam, OANDA market analyst, said: "If speculation is playing as big a role in the latest moves as some expect, then very interesting times may lie ahead."