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Bitcoin suffers mystery flash crash on popular cryptocurrency index

  • The digital currency had hit a high of $4,867 early on Monday, according to industry website CoinDesk, its highest since September 2.
  • But the same index showed that it dropped by over $600 to a low of $4,200 at roughly 9:00 a.m. London time.
  • CNBC checked the four exchanges that make up the CoinDesk bitcoin price index, but none showed any sign of a flash crash.

Bitcoin appeared to have a flash crash on Tuesday morning after falling over $600 in a few minutes, but only one index logged the price move.

The digital currency had hit a high of $4,867 early on Monday, according to industry website CoinDesk, its highest since September 2. But the same index showed that it dropped by over $600 to a low of $4,200 at roughly 9:00 a.m. London time.

It was down some 12 percent for the session but quickly recovered within moments and was trading at $4,787 by 9:10 a.m. London time.

The CoinDesk bitcoin price index is made up of the average price from four exchanges: Bitstamp, Coinbase, itBit, and OKCoin. Other indexes like Brave New Coin's bitcoin liquid index showed no flash crash. Nor did CryptoCompare.com.

CNBC checked the four exchanges that make up the CoinDesk bitcoin price index, but none showed any sign of a flash crash. CNBC has reached out to CoinDesk to see whether it may have been a problem with its own index.

At around the same time as the crash, the Russian central bank proposed fresh restrictions on exchanges selling the cryptocurrency.

Sergei Shvetsov, the first deputy governor at the Russian central bank, described the currency as "dubious" on Tuesday morning, according to Reuters.

"We can not stand apart. We can not give direct and easy access to such dubious instruments for retail (investors)," Shetsov said, according to the news agency.

Shvetsov, speaking at a conference in Moscow, said that Russia will block access to the websites of exchanges that offer cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin.

But it's thought unlikely that any regulatory change in Russia would move the price that much given that the country accounts for a very tiny portion of the entire bitcoin market.

Flash crash history

In September, the price of bitcoin suddenly dropped $200 after China announced a ban on initial coin offerings.

ICOs allow start-ups to raise investment by selling new cryptocurrencies, which are similar to bitcoin, in return for cash. However, the People's Bank of China said this practice constitutes illegal fundraising. Bitcoin's price fell to around $4,350 per bitcoin, before recovery in the following weeks.

And in June this year the price of a rival digital currency, ethereum, crashed to as low as 10 cents from around $319 on the GDAX cryptocurrency exchange. At the time the move was blamed on a multi-million dollar market sell order which in turn triggered automatic stop loss orders which then drove the price lower.

The ethereum blockchain has received backing from a number of large firms such as Microsoft, which has helped to drive the price higher. Ethereum is up around 3,596 percent year-to-date, based on the price it was trading at on Tuesday morning, according to Coinmarketcap.

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