Tech Transformers

Ethereum hits a one-month high and is up nearly 50% in the last two weeks

Key Points
  • The ethereum price hit the a more than one-month high on Wednesday.
  • Ethereum is up nearly 50 percent in the last two weeks.
  • Rising trade from South Korea, initial coin offerings, and backing from major corporates are factors driving the price higher.
A phone showing an ethereum price chart on the Coinbase exchange platform.
Todd Haselton | CNBC

While bitter infighting and subsequent price rise has taken center stage, rival cryptocurrency ethereum has been quietly pushing higher in the background.

On Wednesday, ethereum hit $314.75, the highest level in over a month since it reached $322.28 on June 29, according to CryptoCompare, a platform monitoring live prices of major cryptocurrencies. The price pulled back at a bit on Thursday to just above $301.

But ethereum has been climbing steadily. Over the past two weeks, ethereum is up nearly 50 percent.

All the while, the bitcoin community has been fighting for its future. The price took a beating for a while but just recently came back to hit a record high after the fighting was resolved.

What's behind the rise?

South Korea is driving the trade with over 60 percent of buying happening in Korean won. Lawmakers in South Korea are looking to regulate ethereum and bitcoin which is buoying sentiment.

At the same time, there has been huge hype around so-called initial coin offerings (ICOs). ICOs are a way for start-ups to raise money from users, similar to crowdfunding, by allowing them to buy a stake. In return, the user will receive a token or digital currency, which are equivalent to shares in the firm. ICO money in June and July surpassed early stage venture capital and angel funding.

Many of the firms doing an ICO are blockchain start-ups built on the ethereum blockchain. The ethereum blockchain is particularly useful for so-called smart contracts which are automatically executed when certain conditions are met.

The number of transactions in a single day using ethereum also hit a record high this week, according to industry website Etherscan, showing the traction the digital currency is getting.

Here's what sets ethereum apart from its rival bitcoin
Here's what sets ethereum apart from its rival bitcoin

Ethereum has also had some very high-profile corporate backers. A group called the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance (EEA) was established in February 2017. Since then, it has grown to include 86 firms including the likes of JPMorgan and Microsoft. The corporate support has lent it legitimacy which has boosted investors' appetite.

Analysts expect the current price rises in ethereum to continue, with online trading platform eToro saying that there is bullish sentiment among traders.

"Investors' attitude towards the coin over the coming hours and days will be a great case study. Some might want to realize profits shortly to avoid the losses they incurred during the last trading cycle, but looking at current trading sentiment on the eToro platform, the mood seems to be bullish," Iqbal Gandham, U.K. managing director at eToro, said in a note on Wednesday.