* Bitcoin is at 0.15% of the $ 50,000 level
* Huge gathering driven by institutional investment buying
SINGAPORE, Feb. 16 (Reuters) – Bitcoin hit a new record $ 60 on Tuesday, shy of $ 50,000, extending a sharp set that was largely fueled by large investors who began to take digital assets seriously.
The first and most famous cryptocurrency, bitcoin, reached $ 49,938 and recorded about 70% this year, the most after electric car maker Tesla said it bought $ 1.5 billion in bitcoins and would accept the currency as payment.
Tesla’s move was the latest in a series of major investments that have jumped bitcoin from the edge of finance to the balance sheets of companies and Wall Street sales tables as U.S. firms and traditional money managers began to buy a lot.
The fluttering cryptocurrency, which was almost worthless a decade ago when developer Laszlo Hanyecz paid 10,000 bitcoins for two pizzas, surpassed $ 20,000 only in mid-December, but has so far struggled to break into $ 50,000 after several attempts.
“Bitcoin is limited in the range of the last four or five days, suggesting either a momentum or a period of consolidation,” said Justin d’Anethan, sales manager at digital asset company Diginex in Hong Kong.
“We believe in the latter,” he said, as strong recent demand reduces the final supply of bitcoin.
Bitcoin last traded just below its new record at $ 49,045, while rival cryptocurrency ethereum also held close to its own record of $ 1,879 set last week.
In addition to Tesla, bitcoin has attracted unprecedented flows from large and small investors in recent months and announced new milestones on the road to greater takeovers as a mode of exchange.
The cryptocurrency was created by the mysterious Satoshi Nakamoto, whose real identity is unknown and is based on blockchain technology that acts like a public transaction book. It circulated in 2009, mostly among speculators – something that is starting to change.
Business software company MicroStrategy made the first of several multimillion-dollar bitcoin purchases in August, and a number of Wall Street fund managers, such as billionaire Stanley Druckenmiller, now sound positive about the asset.
PayPal allows customers to use bitcoin at their merchants, and Mastercard is preparing to do the same, moves that bring both opportunity and risk.
“The more mainstream the digital currency is, the more we should expect regulators to pay attention,” said Mike O’Rourke, chief market strategist at JonesTrading.
Reporting by Tom Westbrook of Singapore, Alun John of Hong Kong and Megan Davies of New York; Edited by Alison Williams