Cryptocurrency 24-hour trading volumes soared above $28 billion as the price of bitcoin hit a new all-time high.
Bitcoin, the scorching-hot cryptocurrency, had a wild morning Thursday, but it's not just its price that broke records.
Bitcoin was all over the place Thursday. It reached an all-time high above $19,500 on Coinbase's GDAX exchange, whereas data from Markets Insider showed a record print of $16,623. Its price on GDAX shed more than $4,000 in less than an hour at one point during the day. At the time of writing, bitcoin was trading at $17,299 on GDAX.
That eye-popping volatility appears to have translated into record volumes for the cryptocurrency market, according to data from CoinMarketCap, a leader in crypto-market data.
24-hour trading volumes, according to CoinMarketCap, reached above $28 billion for the first time on Thursday. At last check they were at $28.7 billion, up from $5.5 billion at the same time last month. To put that in context, the New York Stock Exchange sees $50 billion worth of shares change hands on its venue during an average trading day.
Of the major cryptocurrencies, bitcoin was clearly the main driver behind the record volumes, reaching an all-time high of $17.6 billion. Volumes for rival ether were not in record territory, but still high at a little more than $2 billion. Bitcoin cash, a clone of bitcoin, was far off from its record of $11 billion at around $1.3 billion.
Record volumes have been putting pressure on crypto exchanges, which lack the industrial infrastructure of traditional exchanges such as the NYSE. Coinbase, for instance, said Thursday its site was down for some users because of the record-high traffic.
The record volumes for bitcoin come ahead of the launch of bitcoin futures contracts by two major US exchanges. Cboe Global Markets, the Chicago-based options and derivatives exchange, is rolling out its bitcoin futures product Sunday. Its rival, CME Group, is launching later in December. Bitcoin futures, which will allow investors to bet on the future price of the digital coin, are a sign of the eight-year-old coin's maturation.
Futures could help dampen the coin's spine-tingling price swings, according to Craig Pirrong, a business professor at the University of Houston.
"Having this instrument that makes it easier to short might keep the bitcoin price a little closer to reality," he told Bloomberg's Matt Levine.