China’s central bank barred financial institutions from handling Bitcoin transactions, moving to regulate the virtual currency after an 89-fold jump in its value sparked a surge of investor interest in the country.
Bitcoin plunged more than 20 percent to below $1,000 on the BitStamp Internet exchange after the People’s Bank of China said it isn’t a currency with “real meaning” and doesn’t have the same legal status. The public is free to participate in Internet transactions provided they take on the risk themselves, it said.
The ban reflects concern about the risk the digital currency may pose to China’s capital controls and financial stability after a surge in trading this year made the country the world’s biggest trader of Bitcoin, according to exchange operator BTC China. Bitcoin’s price jumped more than ninefold in the past two months alone, prompting former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan to call it a “bubble.”
“The concern is that it interferes with normal monetary policy operation,” said Hao Hong, head of China research at Bocom International Holdings Co. in Hong Kong. “It represents an unofficial leakage to the current monetary system and trades globally. It is difficult to regulate and could be used for money laundering. I think the central bank is right to make this move.”
Bitcoin prices plunged to $875 at 6:02 p.m. Shanghai time on BitStamp, an Internet-based exchange where the currency is traded for dollars, euros and other currencies. They closed at a record high of $1,132.01 yesterday. On the Mt.Gox exchange, the currency traded at $901, down from today’s high of $1,240. Prices dropped to as low as 4,521.1 yuan on BTC China, after rising as high as 7,050 yuan.