Bitcoin prices spiked higher Tuesday, briefly topping the $5,000 mark for the first time in nearly five months, in a move that has left market watchers bewildered by the mysterious surge.
Bitcoin jumped more than 20% in the span of a few minutes during Asia trading hours on the Luxembourg-based Bitstamp exchange, taking prices for the world's best-know cryptocurrency nearly $950 higher from its opening price to trade at $5,080.00 each, the highest since November 19.
"It feels like a blast from the past when I look at a bitcoin chart this morning, with the cryptocurrency soaring more than 20% in under an hour," said Craig Erlam of Singapore-based brokerage Oanda. "If there was a catalyst for the move then it's a well-kept secret right now which suggests there may be something more technical at play."
The gains were quickly pared in subsequent dealing, but bitcoins were still quoted some 15.7% higher on the session at $4,790 each by late morning in Europe, a move that would give the digital coin a year-to-date gain of 28.83%.
"Bitcoin is on fire at the minute as it punches through its previous resistance level," said eToro analyst Simon Peters. "The break above $4,200 was critical, as the market had been watching that level for a while."
"It's difficult to determine exactly what caused the jump, but it's most likely caused by short sellers covering their positions, adding to the upward pressure on the price," he said. "However, if we see the price hold above $4,200 going forward, it could be a sign that we are finally out of the bear market."
The move, while still largely unexplained, follows a series of developments in the United States that suggests regulators are moving slowing towards rule changes that would make bitcoin -- as well as its digital currency peers -- a more traditional investment and transaction alternative.
Last month, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission said it was reviewing two separate applications that could lead to the creation of a bitcoin Exchange Traded Fund.
Last week, New York's Department of Financial Services approved Tagomi Trading LLC's application for a virtual currency license, allowing it to engage in money-transmission, trade routing and order-execution services for non-securities virtual currencies, including bitcoin, ether, bitcoin cash and litecoin.
"DFS is committed to fostering innovation and strengthening the competitiveness of New York's burgeoning virtual currency sector," acting Superintendent Linda Lacewell said in the statement. "The department's approval of Tagomi's virtual currency and money transmitter licenses provides consumers with more choice and more protection in a continuously evolving global financial services marketplace."
In fact, bitcoin's biggest public detractor -- JPMorgan (JPM) - Get Report CEO Jamie Dimon -- who once threatened to fire any employee he found trading the digital currency, saw his bank switch course in February by offering a new virtual coin develop the bank's payments business over blockchain technology.