Bitcoin surges above $6,000 for the first time on heavy trading volume

Key Points
  • Bitcoin climbs to a record above $6,000 as investors bet on future gains for the digital currency, especially as events in the next few weeks could remove major overhangs .
  • Trading volume in bitcoin also far surpassed that of other digital currencies, indicating high investor demand.
  • The gains come despite greater scrutiny of bitcoin from regulators and strong criticism from major bank executives.
A member of bitcoin trading club poses with bitcoin medals at the club's meeting in Tokyo.
Yoshikazu Tsuno | AFP | Getty Images

Bitcoin surged 5 percent to a record high above $6,000 on high trading volume Friday.

The cryptocurrency hit a record high of $6,003.81 in late morning New York trading, according to CoinDesk. Bitcoin later pared some gains to trade around $5,905 by early afternoon.

Twenty-four hour trading volume in U.S. dollars for bitcoin was nearly $2 billion, versus the hundreds of millions for other digital currencies such as ethereum and the bitcoin offshoot, bitcoin cash, according to another industry data website, CoinMarketCap.

"In the last 24 hours and really the last few hours there has been a massive inflow of capital into bitcoin, significantly outweighing the amount of new money flowing into other cryptocurrencies," said Alex Sunnarborg, founding partner of cryptocurrency fund Tetras Capital.

Digital currency ethereum traded up slightly to around $307, according to CoinDesk.

Bitcoin cash, traded 0.4 percent lower around $329, according to CoinMarketCap.

Sunnarborg also noted that bitcoin investors were betting on the original bitcoin holding its own after a split scheduled for November called SegWit2x. Sunnarborg pointed out that futures contracts for the bitcoin offshoot were trading lower and that major bitcoin developers, or "mining pools," were dropping their support for the split.

Bitcoin shot to record highs after an August split into bitcoin and bitcoin cash. Investors at the time typically of a split also receive equal amounts of the new digital currency, and some traders see buying bitcoin ahead of a split as a way to increase potential gains. Another split, bitcoin gold, is also scheduled to take place in the next few weeks.

At Friday's peak price, bitcoin had climbed nearly 38 percent for October and was up 520 percent for the year, according to CoinDesk data.

Brian Kelly, a CNBC contributor and head of BKCM, which runs a digital assets fund for clients, attributed much of Friday's gains to expectations that bitcoin will rise further after topping the psychologically key $6,000 level.

Forty-nine percent of 23,118 people who responded to an unscientific CNBC online survey this week said they expect bitcoin to rise above $10,000. Former Fortress hedge fund manager Michael Novogratz said on CNBC's "Fast Money" last week he sees bitcoin heading to $10,000 in the next six to 10 months.

Bitcoin notched its record two days after briefly plunging 8.7 percent amid fears of greater scrutiny from U.S. regulators.

Most of the cryptocurrency's trading volume came from Japan, with 59 percent of the trades executed in Japanese yen. Trades in U.S. dollars accounted for 25.5 percent of all trades, according to CryptoCompare.

Nevertheless, the cryptocurrency has had a stellar performance over the past month, rising 50.4 percent, despite being criticized by JPMorgan Chase and BlackRock CEOs Jamie Dimon and Larry Fink.

Dimon said last week at a conference that people who own the cryptocurrency are "stupid." Fink, who spoke at the same conference, called bitcoin an "index of money laundering."

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Correction: This story has been updated to reflect that trading volumes in other digital currencies were in the hundreds of millions of U.S. dollars.