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There's a new hottest cryptocurrency of 2018 so far: stellar

  • In the last few days, stellar rose into the ranks of the 10 largest digital currencies and was eighth largest on Tuesday.
  • Bitcoin, the largest cryptocurrency by market cap at $232 billion, has lost its upward momentum over the last two weeks.
  • Digital currency ethereum soars 17.5 percent Tuesday to an all-time high, while litecoin rallies 14 percent.

The hottest digital coin as 2018 kicks off is stellar, which has climbed more than 65 percent since Friday into the 10 largest cryptocurrencies by market capitalization.

By Tuesday, stellar had a market cap of $10 billion as the eighth-largest digital currency, according to CoinMarketCap. The digital coin traded 17.5 percent higher on the day near 56.4 cents, the website showed.

Stellar operates a network with the blockchain technology behind bitcoin. But unlike the popular digital currency, Stellar's transactions settle in 2 to 5 seconds and allows users to quickly exchange government-backed currencies, such as turning U.S. dollars into euros, according to its website. Stellar's coins are officially called lumens, or XLM.

Notably, IBM is using Stellar's network to develop a cross-border payments system with some large banks. Consulting firm Deloitte is also a partner.

Bitcoin, the largest cryptocurrency by market cap at $232 billion, has lost its upward momentum over the last two weeks. The digital currency traded slightly higher Tuesday near $13,880, down 12 percent over the last week, according to Coinbase.

While bitcoin has grabbed the most attention over the last 12 months, briefly soaring about 1,900 percent, 2017 was the year of ripple on a percentage-change basis.

Bitcoin 12-month performance

Source: Coinbase

Ripple, or XRP, climbed 35,500 percent to $2.30 last year and into second place by market capitalization. The digital currency traded 2 percent higher Tuesday near $2.44, with a market cap of $94.65 billion, according to CoinMarketCap.

Like Stellar, Ripple's focus is on payments. The San Francisco-based start-up is working with financial institutions in South Korea and Japan to use Ripple's XRP coin.

The two companies also have the same founder: early cryptocurrency developer Jed McCaleb, who created the Mt.Gox bitcoin exchange. McCaleb left Ripple in 2013 and sold Mt.Gox in 2011 to Mark Karpeles, under whom the exchange suffered a massive hack and eventually filed for bankruptcy.

Today, McCaleb is focused on Stellar, whose website says it operates as a nonprofit and covers operating costs with some of its digital currency holdings and donations.

Meanwhile, ethereum soared 17.5 percent to an all-time high Tuesday of $908.12, according to CoinMarketCap. But the digital currency remained in third place by market cap.

Litecoin jumped 14 percent to $261, about $100 below its record high hit in mid-December, according to CoinMarketCap. Litecoin has a market cap of $14 billion as the sixth-largest digital currency.

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