Retail buying through PayPal is likely helping push bitcoin’s price higher while traders are hoping to get into an ether options market with potential volatility similar to March 2020.

  • Bitcoin (BTC) trading around $36,122 as of 21:00 UTC (4 p.m. ET). Gaining 5.7% over the previous 24 hours.
  • Bitcoin’s 24-hour range: $33,875-$36,122 (CoinDesk 20)
  • BTC well above its 10-hour and 50-hour moving averages on the hourly chart, a bullish signal for market technicians.

Bitcoin trading on Bitstamp since Jan. 3.
Source: TradingView

The price of bitcoin hit another all-time high Wednesday, jumping to $35,735 at 04:00 UTC (11 p.m. ET Tuesday), easily surpassing Jan. 2’s previous record high of $34,366.

And then, after hitting that price zenith, the world’s oldest cryptocurrency settled around the $35,000 level for several hours before heading upward yet again, hitting $36,122 as of press time.

“With a lot of demand from new market participants, both institutional and retail, it is reasonable to assume that we keep going up,” said Michael Gord, chief executive officer of trading firm Global Digital Assets. “A $650 billion market cap is still tiny in comparison to other global currencies or commodities that bitcoin is competing with.”

Historical bitcoin price the past week
Source: CoinDesk 20

“In addition to institutions continuing to push the market forward we are starting to see a surge of retail demand as well,” Gord added. 

Many funds, including Pantera Capital, are identifying growth in retail demand via PayPal’s brokerage Paxos, which also owns the itBit exchange and provides liquidity. Since PayPal launched cryptocurrency capabilities for its users, itBit’s BTC volume numbers have increased significantly.

ItBit spot volumes over the past year.
(Shuai Hao/CoinDesk Research)
Source: CryptoCompare

Since the Nov. 13 rollout of cryptocurrency services to all U.S. PayPal users, itBit’s average bitcoin daily volume has been $25.9 million. That’s much higher than the exchange’s comparatively paltry $5.3 million daily average over the past year, according to CoinDesk 20 data. 

Of course, bitcoin isn’t the only cryptocurrency out there, and some exhaustion is expected as traders rotate into alternative digital assets, or altcoins, in hopes of capturing big-time gains. 

“The altcoin market is becoming more appealing for traders and investors who are looking for large returns,” Jean Baptiste Pavageau, partner at quant trading firm ExoAlpha, told CoinDesk. “We expect to see bitcoin dominance starting to decrease and the altcoin market booming over the next few weeks.” 

Indeed, bitcoin’s dominance, its percentage share of the overall crypto market, has dropped 4.6% since Jan. 3. 

Bitcoin dominance in the crypto market for 2021 so far.
Source: TradingView

As traders jump into crypto assets with smaller market capitalizations, bitcoin may see a temporary cooling, according to Global Digital Asset Chief Operating Officer Zachary Friedman. “We should be seeing stronger hands [who don’t sell easily], which may shorten the drawdown. But I wouldn’t be surprised to see a retrace of 20% before moving higher,” he said.

The heat is on ether options

The second-largest cryptocurrency by market capitalization, ether (ETH), was up Wednesday, trading around $1,206 and climbing 9.2% in 24 hours as of 21:00 UTC (4:00 p.m. ET).

Ether derivatives, such as futures and options, are instruments traders are now clamoring for. On Deribit, the top venue for ether options, implied volatility, which is the forecast of an asset’s spot price movement, is 170%, according to data aggregator Genesis Volatility.

Ether options implied volatility the past year.
Source: Genesis Volatility

“These levels haven’t been seen since the March [COVID-19] crisis,” said Greg Mandini, chief executive officer for Genesis Volatility. At that time, ether options’ implied volatility surpassed 230%. The levels this week indicate traders are paying huge premiums to play in the ether options market. 

“There is an undeniable FOMO for ETH exposure,” Mandini added. “Combine the effects of staking and CME’s ETH future launch in February we can see strong incentives for institutional capital flowing into ETH.”

Other markets

Digital assets on the CoinDesk 20 are all green Wednesday. Notable winners as of 21:00 UTC (4:00 p.m. ET):

  • stellar (XLM) + 66.1%
  • kyber network (KNC) + 24.7%
  • cardano (ADA) + 23%


  • The Nikkei 225 in Asia slipped 0.38%, led lower by losses in Nissan Chemical Industries, Ltd. and CyberAgent Inc., which were both down more than 3%.
  • Europe’s FTSE 100 ended the day jumping 3.5% as the oil and finance sectors made gains and investors seemingly ignored the U.K.’s third nationwide coronavirus lockdown.
  • In the United States, the S&P 500 gained 0.90% as investors signaled optimism about more government stimulus based on projected results of the U.S. Senate runoff election in Georgia.


  • Oil was up 1.1%. Price per barrel of West Texas Intermediate crude: $50.36.
  • Gold was in the red 1.6% and at $1,918 as of press time.


  • The 10-year U.S. Treasury bond yield climbed Wednesday jumping to 1.034 and in the green 7.7%.


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