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Crypto is Going Mainstream in America and the UK

When Donald Trump launched his flashy, $400 “Never Surrender” sneakers in February, he noticed something interesting -- many of the orders he received were paid for with cryptocurrency.  Seemingly intrigued by this[4], the presumptive Republican nominee for President implied in a subsequent interview with CNBC that he had no plans to crack down on cryptocurrency in a potential second term[3]

Cryptocurrency, a $1.7 trillion industry, is hitting the mainstream.  Bitcoin, which accounts for over half the cryptocurrency in circulation, hit a record high Monday, surging to over $72,000 in trading[1].   It has been quite the ascent for Bitcoin, which was sitting just over $20,000 just one year ago.  

Among the contributing factors to cryptocurrency’s rise in popularity is the SEC’s approval of the first U.S.-listed exchange traded funds (ETFs) to track bitcoin[2].  This allows consumers to trade the digital currency via brokerage accounts, rather than having to set up a crypto “wallet.”  SEC Chair Gary Glenser remains cautious about the products, calling bitcoin a “speculative, volatile asset” that is also used to fund crime. 

This week, the United Kingdom also opened up the cryptocurrency market for ordinary investors[6], allowing exchange markets to launch crypto-backed exchange traded notes (ETNs), which was widely credited for the surge in bitcoin on Monday. 

Another factor driving up the price of bitcoin is an upcoming “halving” event in April[5], where bitcoin miners, who can currently sell 900 bitcoin per day, will only be able to sell half, or 450 bitcoin per day, thus reducing the supply of the popular cryptocurrency.  Analysts think this could further drive up the price of bitcoin in the coming weeks. 

Retail investors may have access to additional coins in the near future, as the SEC reviews applications for digital coins Ethereum and Ether ETFs. 

With one in five Americans owning some kind of digital assets, cryptocurrency will increasingly be important in elections; however, the demographics of this group are spread out among different political ideologies/parties and races, and most are under the age of 45. As crypto goes mainstream, politicians will increasingly have to state their positions on regulating digital currency, and protecting American consumers from what has traditionally been a volatile asset class. Want to learn more about economics? Watch our episode with Larry Summers,


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