Bitcoin Rivals Ethereum and Litecoin Soar to Records

December 12, 2017, 5:39 PM UTC

The digital currency markets are in the midst of repeating last week’s astounding bull run, but this time there’s a twist. The star of the show is not bitcoin but two of its best-known rivals: Ethereum and Litecoin.

In the past two days, Ethereum has broken through the $500 and $600 price barriers for the first time, and is up around 30% in the last 24 hours alone, according to Coinbase.

Litecoin, meanwhile, is up an astounding 91% from the previous day and is sitting around $365 as of Tuesday afternoon—nearly four times what it was worth a week ago. (Bitcoin, meanwhile, is not far off its record high of around $17,300 but its relative price gains have been modest this week.)

The buying frenzy around Ethereum and Litecoin became so intense on Tuesday morning that it forced the most popular exchange in the U.S. to suspend trading for over an hour:

It’s not immediately clear what is fueling the demand for Litecoin and Ethereum, which are two of the most well-established rivals to bitcoin. The former was introduced in 2011 as more lightweight clone to Bitcoin, while Ethereum is a different sort of distributed ledger software that is a popular platform for so-called token sales or “initial coin offerings.”

One possibility is that the buying spree represents speculators, many of them based in Asia, deciding that bitcoin has become too expensive and looking for a proxy.

In the case of Ethereum, though, some are speculating that a decision by big banks, including UBS, to launch a compliance program is driving the price increase.