Bitcoin continued to edge higher on Tuesday, extending gains made on the previous day on news that asset-management giant BlackRock has set up a working group to look into cryptocurrencies and blockchain, the technology that underpins them.
The world’s most valuable virtual currency by market value was trading higher by more than 5 percent compared to where prices were on Monday, at around $6,720.84 as of 10:32 a.m. HK/SIN, according to industry website CoinDesk, which tracks prices from several exchanges.
The prices of ethereum and ripple, the second- and third-largest digital assets by market capitalization respectively, also tracked slightly higher. Ethereum was up by more than 6 percent, while ripple was around 6 percent higher compared to levels seen one day ago, as of 10:35 a.m. HK/SIN.
London’s Financial News first reported the story. BlackRock CEO Larry Fink later confirmed the report in an interview with Reuters. “We are a big student of blockchain,” Fink said. He added, however, he does not see "huge demand for cryptocurrencies."
In an earlier interview with Bloomberg, Fink said: "I don’t believe any client has sought out crypto exposure."
Fink has previously railed against bitcoin, calling it an “index of money laundering.”
The working group is not a new development and has, in fact, existed since 2015, a source familiar with the matter told CNBC.
The news follows a report by Fortune magazine that hedge-fund billionaire Steve Cohen’s venture arm Cohen Private Ventures invested in Autonomous Partners, a cryptocurrency-focused investment fund.
Many industry experts believe that increased involvement from institutional investors in the cryptocurrency space will boost confidence in an otherwise dubious market.
“It definitely is causing some excitement,” Mati Greenspan, senior market analyst at eToro, said of the report on Monday. “The idea of big financial firms moving into crypto certainly isn’t new, and this is a trend we’ve been noticing gaining strength since November.”
Virtual currencies have been shrouded in doubt due to excessive volatility in the market resulting in wild price swings. Bitcoin soared close to $20,000 late last year but has declined since, with transaction volumes falling significantly.
Financial regulators around the world are concerned about the speculative nature of cryptocurrencies and their possible use for illicit activities. China and South Korea have both banned a practice known as an initial coin offering, for instance, which is a means of start-ups selling new digital tokens to propel their business.
— CNBC's Cheang Ming contributed to this report.