Cryptocurrency ripple is the worst performer among the top digital currencies by market capitalization as the first quarter comes to a close.
The entire sector has taken a hit this year due to regulatory concerns and an advertising crackdown. Total market capitalization for cryptocurrencies has fallen by more than 50 percent in 2018 so far, according to CoinMarketCap.
Ripple is leading that downturn, and has lost more than 74 percent this year, according to CoinMarketCap. The two largest digital currencies by market cap, bitcoin and ethereum, are also down more than 40 percent, according to data from CoinMarketCap.
San Francisco-based Ripple is developing a network for fast, global financial payments. XRP is the name of the digital token that financial institutions on the network can use to transact quickly.
The cryptocurrency skyrocketed 35,000 percent in 2017 after kicking off the year at less than a penny, according to data from CoinMarketCap. Ripple hit a high near $3.50 on January 7, and was trading near 54 cents Thursday.
XRP, which has a market cap above $21 billion, is listed on more than 60 exchanges but is not yet available on popular U.S. exchange Coinbase. Speculation of when it might get added to Coinbase drove up prices earlier this year.
A CoinDesk article in early March added to speculation about a major exchange listing for Ripple, citing an appearance by Ripple CEO Brad Garlinghouse and Coinbase President and Chief Operating Officer Asiff Hirji on CNBC's "Fast Money" on Tuesday. However, the two were separate and unrelated interviews on the show, and made no such announcement.
XRP prices have since dropped by roughly 50 percent since then.
Joe DiPasquale, CEO of BitBull Capital pointed to crypto-specific events including Facebook and Google cracking down on advertising, and initial coin offering "fatigue" as reasons for the broader digital cryptocurrency sell-off.
"We believe the macroeconomic factors and regulatory factors and time to market with many crypto products will take the rest of the year to settle out," DiPasquale said.
Total Cryptocurrency Market Capitalization
Regulation was another factor in crypto sell-off.
"There's a lot of short-term trepidation based on regulatory uncertainty based on the SEC, with what the European Union is doing, and what various Asian regulators are doing," said John Lore, managing partner at Capital Fund Law Group.
Bitcoin began heading below the key $10,000 level earlier in March after the Securities and Exchange Commission said it will require digital asset exchanges to register with the agency. The SEC statement came after weeks of subpoenas to rein in control over the growing number of exchanges.
Lore's firm advises hedge funds and private equity groups in the crypto-space. He said he's seeing an "unprecedented" number of new fund starts continuing from February.
"I think the sell-off this year has more to do with short term concern than any long-term general distaste for the asset," Lore said.
Top Five Cryptocurrencies by Market Cap YTD
Earlier this week, the only cryptocurrency in the top 20 by market cap in positive territory was VeChain.
That digital currency has gained more than 28 percent since January 1, which one analyst says is thanks to big-name partnerships and a unique structure that incentivizes investors not to sell.
Digital currency tron also turned positive as of Thursday, and is now up 9.25 percent for the quarter.
WORST CRYPTO PERFORMERS
- VeChain: 26 percent
- Tron: 9.25 percent