Bitcoin climbs to record, nearly three times the price of gold

Key Points
  • Bitcoin hit a record high above $3,500 Tuesday morning, more than tripling in value for the year.
  • That's nearly three times the price of gold, which settled at $1,262.60 an ounce, up nearly 10 percent for 2017.
  • That said, the gold market is worth trillions while bitcoin's market capitalization is only about $57 billion.
What the bitcoin surge could mean for gold

Bitcoin's jump to record highs this week put the digital currency close to being triple the price of gold.

"Our initial bitcoin report viewed bitcoin as a 'store of value' and over time would be seen as an alternative to gold," Thomas Lee, co-founder of Fundstrat, said in an email. In July, he became the first major Wall Street strategist to issue a bitcoin report, titled "A framework for valuing bitcoin as a substitute for gold."

traded near $3,487 Tuesday afternoon after hitting an all-time high of $3,525.04 earlier in the day, according to CoinDesk.

That's less than $300 away from triple the price of gold. Gold futures for December delivery settled $2.10 lower Tuesday, at $1,262.60 an ounce.

Bitcoin's first cross above gold's price this year on a closing basis was on March 2, according to data from CoinDesk and FactSet.

At Tuesday's price, the digital currency has more than tripled for the year, versus gold's nearly 10 percent rise.

"I think bitcoin is going to have increasing institutional sponsorship given the pending trading of bitcoin options and bitcoin futures," Fundstrat said.

Both derivatives products are expected to launch later this year or in early 2018.

That said, gold is far from disappearing as a store of value.

Lee pointed out that the overall size of the gold market at about $7.5 trillion dwarfs that of bitcoin. At Tuesday's prices, bitcoin had a market capitalization of roughly $57 billion, around the size of Charles Schwab.

In that case, Lee and other analysts have noted that even a small percentage of fund flows out of gold into bitcoin could send the digital currency's price sharply higher, potentially into the tens of thousands of dollars in the next few years.

Other digital currencies also rose Tuesday. The one-week-old bitcoin offshoot "bitcoin cash" rebounded from weekend lows near $200 to trade near $338.25, according to CoinMarketCap.

Ethereum traded nearly 5 percent higher at $280, about 12 percent higher for the month, according to CoinDesk.

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