Released after the financial crisis to potentially supplant the banking powers that be, bitcoin has finally beaten Wall Street — at least in one respect.
Thanks to a surge in optimism surrounding the cryptocurrency, the price of bitcoin shot as high as $5,855 early Friday, up 96% since news that China was banning local cryptocurrency exchanges broke mid-September.
But what’s more interesting than the new high is that bitcoin’s rally has driven the value of all tokens currently in circulation up to $97 billion, according to Cryptocurrency Market Capitalizations. That’s higher than even the market capitalizations of Wall Street giants Morgan Stanley($89 billion) and Goldman Sachs ($93 billion). Both banks have paid penalties in relation to the 2008 financial crisis.
Bitcoin has since pared back some of its gains, falling to about $5,600, or a market capitalization of about $93 billion. Though that still puts bitcoin within striking distance of $6,000 — at which point bitcoin would reach a market cap of $100 billion.
As lore goes, the pseudonymous founder of bitcoin, Satoshi Nakamoto, released a concept for the cryptocurrency as a decentralized system with no central authority following the 2008 financial crisis. It was in this atmosphere of rising anti-establishment sentiment that Nakamoto proposed a version of “electronic cash” that would “allow online payments to be sent directly from one party to another without going through a financial institution.”
Still, since then, the story of bitcoin has not panned out as one of institutions versus cryptocurrencies. Banks such as Goldman are said to be weighing bitcoin operations, while Fidelity is mining Ethereum, another digital currency. The head of the International Monetary Fund, Managing Director Christine Lagarde, recently said Bitcoin could be the future one day. At the same time, many banks and tech giants are testing blockchain, the technology underlying bitcoin.
The market capitalization of all 1,165 cryptocurrencies currently being tracked by Cryptocurrency Market Capitalizations, including bitcoin, has reached $179 billion.
That means bitcoin still has a ways to go before reaching the valuations of other banking giants with a larger consumer presence such as Citigroup($198 billion), Bank of America($270 billion), Wells Fargo($275 billion), and the largest of the large, J.P. Morgan Chase($340 billion).
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