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Big wipeout erased US$46b of value last month

[HONG KONG] Bitcoin is proving that cryptocurrencies can erase wealth as fast as they create it.

Its January slide knocked US$46.1 billion off the US$200 billion in market value generated in all of last year, according to historical pricing data from Coinmarketcap.com. The drop is the biggest one-month loss in US dollar terms in the short history of digital assets.

"Once we got to US$10,000, crypto had adopted this Teflon persona of late that it's always going to find a base and go back up again," Stephen Innes, head of Asia Pacific trading at Oanda, said by phone from Singapore.

"When we're talking in the realm of riskier assets, and something shaves off 50 per cent of its value, it tells me there's going to be an extension lower. The sad thing is a lot of people will be burned, because they will continue to buy dips."

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Since reaching a peak of almost US$20,000 in early December after the introduction of futures contracts on regulated exchanges in the US, a series of negative news has buffeted Bitcoin and rival cryptocurrencies, with losses intensifying since the start of 2018.

A record US$500 million heist of an alternate coin at Japanese exchange Coincheck on Jan 26 upped the pressure on regulators to probe business practices within the largely unregulated industry, while authorities in trading hotbed South Korea continue to debate more serious measures including a ban on such exchanges.

Mr Innes sees the cryptocurrency tumbling further to the US$5,000-to-US$6,000 range before eventually recovering to US$10,000-to-US$15,000. That road will almost certainly be bumpy given global authorities are only going to increase their scrutiny of the cryptocurrency industry from here on, he said.

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