Bitcoin Tumbles More than 25% as Sharks 'Beginning to Circle'

Bitcoin’s plunge extended to almost 30 percent Friday as the frenzy surrounding digital currencies faced one of its biggest tests yet.

The world’s largest cryptocurrency approached $10,000 as this week’s selloff entered a fourth day with increasing momentum. It touched a record high of $19,511 on Monday. Other cryptocurrencies also tumbled: ethereum dropped as much as 36 percent and litecoin slumped as much as 43 percent, according to composite prices on Bloomberg.

Michael Novogratz, the former Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Fortress Investment Group LLC macro trader, said he’s shelving plans to start a cryptocurrency hedge fund and predicted that bitcoin may extend its plunge to $8,000.

“We didn’t like market conditions and we wanted to re-evaluate what we’re doing,” Novogratz said in a phone interview. He predicted last week that bitcoin could reach $40,000 within a few months.

Traders who bought the currency on futures exchanges using collateral may start facing margin calls following the price decline. Two venues launched products in recent weeks that required hefty security, with Cboe needing 44 percent to clear contracts, and the CME 47 percent. Brokers set safety nets even higher.

Coinbase, one of the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchanges, said all buying and selling was temporarily disabled during today’s rout, after having delays in processing wire transfers and verifying new customers for the past week due to higher traffic. Bitcoin transaction volume jumped more than 30 percent on Coinbase’s GDAX exchange, while fees to approve and record the transactions on the blockchain surged to a record $55, according to Bit Info Charts.

Many of the recent news stories and market moves connected to cryptocurrencies appear to carry hallmarks of the mania phase of a bubble. Long Island Iced Tea Corp. shares rose as much as 289 percent after the unprofitable Hicksville, New York-based company rebranded itself Long Blockchain Corp. Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda said on Thursday bitcoin isn’t functioning like a normal means of payment and is being used for speculation.

Still, cryptocurrencies are attracting established players. Goldman Sachs Group Inc. is setting up a trading desk to make markets in digital currencies such as bitcoin, according to people with knowledge of the strategy. The bank aims to get the business running by the end of June, if not earlier, two of the people said.*

 *This article is by Dave Liedtka and Erik Schwatzer, and originally appeared on bloomberg.com 

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