Bitcoin Holds Near Record as Mastercard Forges Crypto Path

Bitcoin hovers near record territory after Mastercard says it is following in Tesla’s footsteps to both support the cryptocurrency and utilize it.
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Bitcoin hovered near record territory on Thursday, holding gains made earlier in the week after Mastercard  (MA) - Get Report said it was following in Tesla’s  (TSLA) - Get Report footsteps to both support the cryptocurrency and utilize it.

Both Twitter  (TWTR) - Get Report and Amazon  (AMZN) - Get Report indicated that they too were exploring how to transact in and support digital currencies.

Bitcoin traded at $47,495, up 4.38%, according to CoinDesk, bringing its week-to-date gains near 8%. Earlier in the week, the digital token touched a record high of more than $48,000. Ethererum was up 2.29% at $1,788.94, while XRP was up 2.28% at 52 cents.

Payments giant Mastercard said it was regulatory joining other large companies now embracing bitcoin, revealing in a company blog that it plans to start supporting select cryptocurrencies directly on its network later this year.

The decision comes three months after rival PayPal Holdings  (PYPL) - Get Report said it would add select cryptocurrencies to its platform, and just a few days after electric car maker Tesla announced in regulatory filing that it has invested $1.5 billion into Bitcoin, and plans to accept the digital token as payment.

While Mastercard didn't disclose which digital currencies it will support. A source familiar with the matter told CoinDesk that digital currency payments would settle in cryptocurrency at participating merchants. 

Mastercard already has existing partnerships with prominent crypto payment firms Wirex and BitPay but currently requires a conversion of digital currency payments back to fiat currencies on its network.

Twitter also alluded to embracing bitcoin, with Chief Financial Officer Ned Segal telling CNBC that the company has done some “upfront thinking” around how to handle bitcoin, including if employees and vendors ask to be paid in the cryptocurrency and whether the firm needs to have the digital asset on its balance sheet.

At the same time, Uber Technologies  (UBER) - Get Report CEO Dara Khosrowshahi quashed the idea of working with bitcoin or other digital currencies, saying on CNBC that the company considered and “quickly dismissed” putting any of the company’s cash in cryptocurrencies.

Uber on Wednesday reported fourth-quarter earnings below estimates, though received a raft of price-target boosts from Wall Street analysts on Thursday. 

Separately, Amazon reportedly is also planning to get into the digital currency game, with plans to launch a digital currency project in Mexico, with plans to hire for the effort in Mexico and the U.S.

The e-commerce and cloud computing services company has named the new project "Digital and Emerging Payments," which will allow the conversion of cash into digital currency, according to recent internal job postings listed at Amazon.

“This product will enable customers to convert their cash into digital currency using, which customers can enjoy, online services including shopping for goods and/or services like Prime Video,” one of the job posts described the project.

For its part, bitcoin is designed to have a fixed supply of 21 million coins, underpinned by a blockchain-based digital ledger distributed across computer networks. It has more than quadrupled in value over the past 12 months amid strong demand from institutional asset managers including pension funds - and now companies.

At the same time, bitcoin’s stunning ascent has also raised concerns about a bubble – chiefly because there remains little agreement on exactly what gives bitcoin and other digital currencies their underlying value, other than what someone is willing to pay - though bitcoin supports argue its value is in the computing network that supports it.

Meantime, WallStreetBets, the popular Reddit forum at the center of the recent retail investor frenzy, is talking about cryptocurrencies as well. The unverified Twitter account “Wallstreetbets mod” posted a call to buy bitcoin as well as marijuana stocks.