After US authorities identified Bitcoin as a “legal means of exchange” before Congress, the currency hit a high water mark of $750 on the Mt. Gox exchange.
The hearing, titled “Beyond Silk Road: Potential Risks, Threats, and Promises of Virtual Currencies” and held by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on November 18 in Washington, was called in the wake of the FBI’s shutting down of the Silk Road.
Users of Silk Road, an unregulated online marketplace that allowed mail-order drug deals to flourish, paid in Bitcoin, and this become one of the dominant narratives in mainstream media around the currency.
However, the US government throwing around words like “legitimate” got investors and speculators excited, obviously, as Bitcoins rebounded from a low of $600 at the beginning of the hearing to those record highs.
Volatility has been the rule in 2013 for the Bitcoin market. At the beginning of the year, one BTC was trading for $15. Then, Cypriot banks started getting haircuts, and investors needed newer, safer ways to expatriate their money.
It is yet unclear how Washington will proceed. Despite positive signs from the hearing, analysts say existing regulations unintentionally hamper the growth of Bitcoin businesses, and the infrastructure necessary to take Bitcoin to new levels is being developed elsewhere.
To be sure, the world’s largest Bitcoin exchange, BTC China, was busy securing a $2 million round of investments just before Congress and Bitcoin proponents convened.
The next three largest Bitcoin exchanges by volume are found in Japan, Slovenia and Bulgaria.
Bitcoin is now accepted by a growing number of businesses the world over. With about 12 million Bitcoins in circulation, coffee shops, home delivery services and pool table manufacturers are accepting payments in BTC.
Richard Branson has said that he would consider Bitcoin payments for Virgin companies, as well.