CryptoWatch: Bitcoin under pressure to start 2018 as Ether tokens take flight

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Bitcoin prices on Tuesday started 2018 the same way it ended: facing stiff headwinds as some of its rivals, notably Ether tokens trading on the Ethereum blockchain trading at or near an all-time high.

The spot price of a single bitcoin BTCUSD, +3.09%  was trading relatively flat at more than $13,600, up less than 2%, according to data and news site CoinDesk.com. However, since its peak mid-December peak at about $19,800, the No. 1 most valued cryptocurrency has shed about a third of its value.

Bitcoin futures for January XBTF8, +2.07% on Cboe Global Markets Inc. CBOE, -0.21%  were down 5.4% at $13,770, while futures BTCF8, -3.18% trading on CME Group Inc. CME, -0.18%  for the same month were down about 5% at $13,780.

Meanwhile, Ether tokens were kicking off the new year with a bang, up 14%, approaching an intraday record over $900, based on CoinDesk prices.

The recent surge for Ether has dented bitcoin’s market dominance, with its relative share of value compared with hundreds of other so-called alternative, or altcoins, to around 36%, marking its lowest level ever, according to research site CoinMarketcap.com. The popular digital currency had consistently maintained about half the market share in its industry but has lost traction over the past several weeks (see chart below showing the market caps of some of the most valued cryptocurrencies compared with bitcoin):

Bitcoin’s share of the market is slipping.

Both cyber assets enjoyed a fantastic 2017, with cryptoassets catching fire on the back of wider mainstream recognition and a speculative fervor for the nascent currencies, which promise permissionless, decentralized, person-to-person transactions.

Since its 2017 nadir, bitcoin has rocketed more than 1,300%, while Ether tokens have seen an eye-popping 11,000% increase since the start of 2017.

Bitcoin saw its most sever selling after the debut of rival asset Bitcoin cash, which erupted out of the original bitcoin back in August and is identical to bitcoin except it offers faster transaction processing.

To be sure, a number of individuals, including J.P. Morgan Chase & Co.’s CEO Jamie Dimon has referred to the rapid rise o digital currencies as a bubble, likening it to tulip mania.