LONDON: Bitcoin has grabbed headlines this week with its dizzying ascent to an all-time high. Yet, under the radar, a trend has been playing out that could change the face of the cryptocurrency market: A massive flow of coin to North America from East Asia.
Bitcoin, the biggest and original cryptocurrency, soared to a record $19,918 on Tuesday, buoyed by demand from investors who variously view the virtual currency as a “risk-on” asset, a hedge against inflation and a payment method gaining mainstream acceptance.
But the boom represents a shift in the market, which has typically been dominated by investors in East Asian nations like China, Japan and South Korea since the digital currency was invented by the mysterious Satoshi Nakamoto over a decade ago.
It is North American investors who have been the bigger winners in the 165 percent rally this year.
Weekly net inflows of bitcoin — a proxy for new buyers — to platforms serving mostly North American users have jumped over 7,000 times this year to over 216,000 bitcoin worth $3.4 billion in mid-November, data compiled for Reuters shows.
East Asian exchanges have lost out.
Those serving investors in the region bled 240,000 bitcoin worth $3.8 billion last month, versus an inflow of 1,460 in January, according to the data from US blockchain researcher Chainalysis.
The change is being driven by an increasing appetite for bitcoin among bigger US investors, according to Reuters interviews with cryptocurrency platforms and investors from the US and Europe to South Korea, Hong Kong and Japan.
“The sudden influx of institutional interest from the North American region is driving a shift in bitcoin trading, which is rebalancing asset allocations across different exchanges and platforms,” said Ciara Sun of Seychelles-based Huobi Global Markets, whose parent company has roots in China and operates in several Asian markets.