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Bitcoin drops to new two-month low as world markets sell off

A representation of cryptocurrency Bitcoin is placed on a PC motherboard, in this illustration taken on June 16, 2023 — Reuters illustration/Files
A representation of cryptocurrency Bitcoin is placed on a PC motherboard, in this illustration taken on June 16, 2023 — Reuters illustration/Files

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Top cryptocurrency bitcoin hit a fresh two-month low on Friday, breaking out of its recent tight range as a wave of risk averse sentiment swept through world markets.

On Thursday, bitcoin fell 7.2 per cent in its biggest one-day drop since November 2022 when top exchange FTX collapsed.

It then slipped to a two-month low of $26,172 during Asian trading hours on Friday, its lowest since June 16. By 0835 GMT, it had partly recovered to $26,441, down 0.8 per cent on the day.

Global markets have been hit by a wave of selling, with Wall Street's main indexes closing lower on Thursday and Asian shares heading for a third week of losses over concerns about China's economy and fears that US interest rates would stay higher for longer given a resilient economy.

Ether, the second biggest cryptocurrency, was steady at $1,685.20, having also dropped sharply on Thursday.

Some analysts attributed crypto's drop to a Wall Street Journal report that Elon Musk's SpaceX sold its bitcoin holdings after writing the value down by $373 million. Musk is influential among crypto enthusiasts, and bitcoin prices have previously moved in response to his tweets.

The SpaceX report was the "immediate catalyst" for bitcoin's sell-off, said Ben Laidler, global markets strategist at eToro.

"The broader driver is that crypto assets are not immune to the deepening risk-off selling pressure seen across all asset classes," Laidler added.

Joseph Edwards, head of research at Enigma Securities, attributed the bitcoin price move to low volatility and a lack of enthusiasm from retail investors.

Bitcoin had been hovering close to $30,000 in recent months, having gradually recovered this year after dropping sharply in 2022 when various crypto firms collapsed, leaving investors with large losses.

Crypto markets were boosted in June by BlackRock applying to launch a spot bitcoin exchange-traded fund (ETF) in the United States. Some investors interpreted that move as an indication that the US Securities and Exchange Commission would approve spot bitcoin ETF applications from various asset managers, including Grayscale.

"The big concern right now is that this might be a frontrun on the outcome of Grayscale's lawsuit against the SEC; optimism on that front has been keeping markets inflated above whether they might otherwise be for much of the summer," Edwards said.

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