By many measures, digital currencies are as strong as ever. Bitcoin prices, up more than 400 percent this year, eclipsed $5,000 on Thursday. While Bitcoin is far and away the largest cryptocurrency, 11 other coins have a market cap in excess of $1 billion, reflecting increasingly diverse trading options.
Changing economic and regulatory conditions have led to sudden shifts in trading volume against different currencies, reflecting how volatile these markets can be.
Bitcoin trading against the Chinese yuan used to account for most of the volume. That changed early this year when regulators started to clamp down on digital currency exchanges. Japan’s yen took over as the biggest trading pair as regulators there took the opposite approach, adopting digital-friendly rules.
In the case of Ethereum, the Korean won has become prevalent as rules that limit access to more traditional assets are driving Korean investors to mine and trade the second-biggest cryptocurrency. As for trading in a wider group of cryptocurrencies, bitcoin takes the place of fiat currencies as the biggest trading pair.