Bitcoin breaks $20,000 for first time, Switzerland named currency manipulator

(Reuters) – Bitcoin smashed through $20,000 for the first time on Wednesday while the Swiss franc gained after the U.S. Treasury labelled Switzerland a currency manipulator.

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Bitcoin last jumped 6.9% to move as high as $20,651.

The cryptocurrency has gained more than 170% this year, buoyed by demand from larger investors attracted to its potential for quick gains, purported inflation-resistant qualities, and expectations it will become a mainstream payment method.

“The latest run to $20,000 hasn’t been accompanied by nearly the amount of hype as there was back in 2017,” said Paul Hickey, co-founder of Bespoke Investment Group. Bitcoin then garnered more interest from retail investors, but some may now be leery after getting burned, Hickey said.

The Treasury, also on Wednesday, said that through June 2020 both Switzerland and Vietnam had intervened in currency markets to prevent effective balance of payments adjustments.

It is not surprising that the Trump administration might make a case about currency manipulation, given recent “runaway appreciation” of the Swissy, which is near six-year highs, said Joe Manimbo, senior market analyst at Western Union Business Solutions.

The Swiss Franc was last at 0.8844, with the dollar down 0.12% against the currency on the day.

The Swiss government, on Wednesday, said it is open for bilateral talks with the U.S. Treasury about the currency manipulation issue.

Strong euro zone survey figures and hopes of progress on Brexit negotiations pushed the euro above $1.22 against the U.S. dollar on Wednesday for the first time since April 2018, but later notched downward.

Against the U.S. dollar, the euro rose 0.40% to $1.2199 after earlier reaching as high as $1.2212.

The dollar index, which measures the U.S. currency against a basket of currencies, was last at 90.2370 , a level not seen since April 2018.

The index slightly pared losses after data showed that U.S. retail sales fell for a second straight month in November, but then fell again.

Investors are also keeping an eye on the outcome of a two-day Federal Reserve policy meeting on Wednesday. Policymakers are expected to keep the U.S. overnight interest rate near zero and signal it will stay there for years to come, a decision that analysts say will further boost risk sentiment.

The euro has risen nearly 13% since the European Union announced a recovery fund in May. Stronger economic activity data in recent months have also boosted bets that Europe is likely to outperform the United States in the coming months.

Those expectations got a further boost with manufacturing survey data from Germany and France indicating that Europe’s biggest economies may be recovering quickly. and

Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, said she could not say whether the EU and Britain would reach a trade agreement, but progress had been made and the next few days would be critical.

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