More liquidity?

By Jeff John Roberts
October 12, 2017

The frenzy around digital money is likely to intensify as San Francisco-based Coinbase announced on Thursday that customers will be able to purchase bitcoin and two other currencies instantly from U.S. bank accounts.

This is significant because Coinbase is the biggest U.S. bitcoin exchange and, until now, customers have had to wait for several days to receive their digital currency. Here’s the official announcement:

We are excited to announce the ability for customers to instantly purchase digital currency using a U.S. bank account. Previously, customers who purchased using a bank account had to wait several days before receiving their digital currency. Customers can now buy up to $25,000* and receive access to their digital currency immediately.

The upshot is that those who buy bitcoin from Coinbase will able to spend it right away. More importantly, the new policy makes it easier for ordinary investors to engage in day trading in the highly volatile digital currency market.

Right now, it’s possible to trade in real time using GDAX, a Coinbase-owned exchange, but the platform is complex and tailored for institutions and large traders, and takes day to pre-fund. The new policy will make buying and selling easier for casual traders.

The new policy is likely to increase trading volume in not only bitcoin, but also two rival cryptocurrencies Ethereum and Litecoin, which Coinbase lists on its exchange.

All of this could in turn create greater liquidity in the digital currency markets and, at least temporarily, drive prices even higher.

Since the start of the year, digital currencies have gone on an astonishing bull run. Bitcoin on Thursday reached a new all-time high of $5,200, which is up more than fivefold from January. (The market has also been prone to dramatic swoons, however, including a crash in September that saw the price of digital currencies fall around 40%.)

In response to the Coinbase announcement, the price of Litecoin appeared to jump in response. The currency was up over 12% as of mid-afternoon ET.

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For Coinbase, which this year became the first crypto-company to be anointed with “unicorn” status (industry jargon for a private company with a valuation of over $1 billion), the new instant-buying policy is likely to translate to new profits from fees and commissions.

If you’re curious about the digital market, check out our recent explainer: “$5,000 Bitcoin: 3 Reasons to Buy and 3 to Stay Away.” And if you think the whole thing crypto currency thing is a bubble, here’s a guide to shorting it by Fortune’s The Ledger.

This is part of Fortune’s new initiative, The Ledger, a trusted news source at the intersection of tech and finance. For more on The Ledger, click here.

This story was updated at 12:35pm ET to clarify how GDAX functions, and at 1:30pm to include the price move of Litecoin.

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