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Bitcoin passes $7,000 for the first time

(Reuters) — Digital currency bitcoin took another leap higher on Thursday, rocketing above $7,000 for the first time after a more than tenfold increase in its value over the past year.

Bitcoin has seen eye-watering gains in recent months, having more than doubled in value in the past seven weeks alone. It is on track for a fifth consecutive quarter of increases — a run not seen since 2012-2013, when it was approaching $100 for the first time.

It hit as high as $7,354.10 on the Luxembourg-based Bitstamp exchange on Thursday BTC=BTSP, before settling back to $7,030 by 1630 GMT, still up over 4 percent on the day.

Credit Suisse Chief Executive Tidjane Thiam expressed caution about the booming cryptocurrency, saying the current interest in it could eventually subside.

“From what we can identify, the only reason today to buy or sell bitcoin is to make money, which is the very definition of speculation and the very definition of a bubble,” he said on Thursday.

The latest rally was driven in large part by news earlier this week that the world’s largest derivatives exchange operator CME Group (CME.O) is to launch bitcoin futures.

“The move by such a well-known, established exchange throws open the doors for institutions to get into bitcoin,” said analyst Arnaud Masset at Swissquote, a brokerage that offers bitcoin trading to retail clients.

“Still, traditional investors will remain cautious and will not rush.”

Thursday’s price move took bitcoin’s aggregate value or “market cap” — its price multiplied by the number of bitcoins released into circulation — to more than $122 billion, according to industry website Coinmarketcap.

The aggregate value of all cryptocurrencies hit a record high of more than $194 billion, the website said, more than the market values of Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley combined.

“This has been another incredibly bullish week for the cryptocurrency, with the visible upside attracting investors from all directions,” said Lukman Otunuga, research analyst at FXTM, a brokerage.

“It must be kept in mind that bitcoin’s exponential gains are not only phenomenal, but (also) somewhat frightening.”

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