(Bloomberg) — It took just over 18 months, but Bitcoin is finally back to where it traded before the event that precipitated the last crypto crash.
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The dominant cryptocurrency rose as much as 6.7% to $37,973 on Thursday before paring the gain. That was the highest since May 5, 2022 — just before the TerraUSD stablecoin collapsed and ignited a daisy chain of failures across the cryptoasset space. Bitcoin completed its full recovery from that debacle almost exactly to the year after the rout reached its nadir when Sam Bankman-Fried’s exchange FTX filed for bankruptcy.
“With Bitcoin trading back above the level when the Terra stablecoin imploded, crypto traders have officially moved on from those psychological scars,” said Markus Thielen, head of research at Matrixport.
Unlike in previous boom cycles, Bitcoin staged this year’s recovery in fits and starts, with sharp advances interspersed with long lulls of low volatility. To get here, it had to overcome the steepest monetary tightening by the Federal Reserve in four decades, along with increasingly stringent industry regulations.
“BTC has finally shown signs of being regarded as investors as a risk-off asset similar to gold, as implied by the correlations in the past months,” said Jaime Baeza, managing partner at crypto hedge fund AnB Investments.
A succession of narratives propelled — or sought to explain — crypto’s remarkable resurgence: Bitcoin as a hedge against inflation; as a refuge from the US banking crisis in March; and most recently, Bitcoin for the masses in the form of exchange-traded funds possibly soon-to-be-approved by the US Securities and Exchange Commission.
A brief window of at least eight days opened on Thursday for the SEC to “theoretically issue approval orders,” according to a note by Bloomberg Intelligence analysts James Seyffart and Eric Balchunas. “Even if approvals don’t arrive this month, we still believe there’s a 90% chance of approval by Jan. 10,” they wrote.
The optimism of the potential approval by the regulator, after more than a decade of deliberation, has bolstered the token more than 120% this year and Caroline Mauron, co-founder of digital-asset derivatives liquidity provider Orbit Markets, sees a “sustained interest in bets on a further Bitcoin rally.” In comparison, global stocks have risen a modest 10% over the same period.
To be sure, Bitcoin is only halfway to reclaiming the heights of the 2021 crypto mania, when it peaked at close to $69,000. But digital-assets advocates are already spinning fresh narratives about its enduring strength.
“The ETF expectation is the top of a growing list of catalysts, which gives the current rally further legs,” said Josh Gilbert, market analyst at trading and investing firm eToro. Besides the ETF trigger, bets that the US Federal Reserve is done with rate hikes for now and an upcoming Bitcoin-halving next year are also fueling the rally, Gilbert said.
Even so, JPMorgan analyst Nikolaos Panigirtzoglou said that the crypto rally “looks overdone.” Instead of fresh capital entering the crypto industry to be invested in the newly-approved ETFs, JPMorgan see as a more likely scenario existing capital shifting from existing Bitcoin products such as the Grayscale trust and Bitcoin futures ETFs.
Meanwhile, the price of Ether surged on bets that BlackRock Inc. is gearing up to file for an exchange-traded fund that would be centered on the second-largest cryptocurrency.
The Wall Street behemoth registered paperwork in Delaware for the iShares Ethereum Trust, according to documents posted to the Delaware Department of State Division of Corporations website. The move marks BlackRock’s second major foray into crypto-centric ETFs after it filed for a Bitcoin spot fund in June.
The price of Ether rose as much as 8.6% on Thursday, crossing above $2,000 and hitting the highest level since April, data compiled by Bloomberg show. VanEck, Invesco, 21Shares and others have filings for spot-Ether ETFs as well.
Thursday’s milestone also marks a break of sorts from the legacy of those accused of its biggest failures.
Bankman-Fried, the crypto savior-turned-arch-villain, was found guilty last week of one of the biggest financial frauds in US history and is awaiting sentencing that could send him to prison for decades. Do Kwon, the South Korean who invented the ill-fated TerraUSD, has spent time in a Montenegrin jail and is wanted by US and South Korean authorities on fraud charges.
FTT the native token of the FTX exchange has rallied almost 90% in the past 24 hours, according to CoinGecko data, amid expectations the exchange may be rebooted.
Read more: SBF Tops a Long List of Crypto Hot Shots Facing Legal Reckoning
–With assistance from David Pan and Vildana Hajric.