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Ethereum tops $3K, hits all-time high as investors look beyond bitcoin

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Cryptocurrency ether, the digital token of the Ethereum blockchain, topped $3,000 on Monday, hitting an all-time high and stealing attention away from the world’s largest crypto, bitcoin.

Ether’s price rose about 8 percent Monday morning and exchanged hands at about $3,150 as of 6:45 a.m. ET, according to data from Coinbase. The token’s up more than 300 percent for the year so far, handily outpacing bitcoin’s 95 percent rise on the year.

Bitcoin’s price also rose about 3 percent Monday, bringing its market cap to about $1.1 trillion, according to Coinbase. Ethereum’s market cap sits around $366 billion, Coinbase data shows. 

The rapid rise of Ethereum comes as excitement around DeFi, or decentralized finance, grows and investors see strong potential on the Ethereum blockchain for more applications. The decentralized finance movement seeks to largely replace banks with blockchain technology as the home of financial transactions like borrowing, lending and trading. 

Ethereum, which allows multiple software developers to build apps on its decentralized network, is particularly appealing to DeFi evangelists. Ether is the native token of the Ethereum blockchain.

One popular trend in the so-called decentralized app space are non-fungible tokens, or NFTs, many of which are based on the Ethereum blockchain. NFTs are digital assets that represent ownership of virtual items like art and sports memorabilia. Some NFTs have fetched jaw-dropping prices in recent months and the prospect of companies cashing in on the movement have sent a handful of stock prices soaring. 

Increasingly, institutional investors and major US companies are embracing the crypto world. Helping Ether’s price break past $3,000, Bloomberg reported last month that the European Investment Bank plans to issue a digital bond over the Ethereum blockchain. And Coindesk reported last week that JP Morgan plans to unveil a managed bitcoin fund.

Still, the crypto movement has drawn harsh criticism from some traditional investors. Berkshire Hathaway Vice Chairman Charlie Munger said Saturday that the rise of bitcoin is “disgusting and contrary to the interests of civilization.”

“Of course I hate the bitcoin success,” Munger, 97, said during a Q&A session at Berkshire’s annual shareholder meeting. “I don’t welcome a currency that’s so useful to kidnappers and extortionists and so forth, nor do I like just shuffling out of your extra billions of billions of dollars to somebody who just invented a new financial product out of thin air.”

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