Bitcoin prices continued to climb Thursday as investors shrugged-off reports of a potential crackdown on cryptocurrency markets by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
The Wall Street Journal reported late Wednesday that the SEC had issued subpoenas linked to its probe into so-called initial coin offerings, a process in which companies raise money through the sale of new digital coins, which some studies suggest hit $5.6 billion last year and at least $1.6 billion over the past two months.
"I think our Main Street investors look at these virtual currency platforms and assume they are regulated in the same way that a stock is regulated and, as I said, it's far from that and I think we should address that," SEC chairman Jay Clayton told lawmakers on the Senate Banking Committee on Feb. 6. "Those who engage in semantic gymnastics or elaborate re-structuring exercises in an effort to avoid having a coin be a security are squarely in the crosshairs of our enforcement provision."
Bitcoins were marked 3.5% higher in Thursday trading on the bitstamp exchange in Luxembourg, which feeds prices into the CME Group futures contract, and changing hands at $10,675 each, a move that extends the world's best-known digital currency's gains to 56% from its early February trough.
"We are supportive of any action which helps the cryptocurrency industry grow and develop in the right way," said Iqbal Gandham, UK Managing Director at eToro, a cryptocurrency retailer. "We're still in the nascent stages when it comes to the ICO market."
"Appropriate regulatory measures could help to ensure consumer safety and the promotion of best practice, and provide certainty and clarity for the industry," he added.
Curiously, digital currency markets have largely powered-through a series of legal and regulatory challenges to the sprawling global market -- which coinmarketcap.com pegs at $453.7 billion -- including the Feb. 21 arrest of BitFunder founder Jon Montroll, whom Manhattan district attorney Geoffrey Berman said "repeatedly lied during sworn testimony and misled SEC staff to avoid taking personal responsibility for the loss of thousands of his customers' bitcoins."
That followed the declaration by Bank of England Governor Mark Carney that bitcoin had "pretty much failed" as a traditional currency. Carney told a panel of lawmakers on Feb. 19 that bitcoin "is not a store of value because it is all over the map. Nobody uses it as a medium of exchange."
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