CryptoWatch: Watch out, bitcoin: Ripple coins march higher, overtake Ethereum

Ripple coins were on the rise on Friday, as the cryptocurrency sector mounted a rebound on the final weekday of 2017.

The prominent crypto asset, which earlier in December overtook bitcoin rival Bitcoin cash, is now eclipsing Ethereum’s Ether tokens as the most highly valued cybercurrency.

Although much of the focus in 2017 has been on the stratospheric ascent of bitcoin BTCUSD, +3.13% up about 1,400% so far in 2017 in recent trade, Ripple has catapulted 280,000% in 2017, boasting a market value of nearly $74 billion, according to CoinMarketcap.com data.

In other words, $100 invested in Ripple’s coins would be worth $35,000 based on its current price of $2.22, with a $1,000 investment fetching $347,000. By comparison, the Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, -0.48% the S&P 500 index SPX, -0.52%   and the Nasdaq Composite Index COMP, -0.67%  have returned between 20-30% so far in 2017.

It is those sort of eye-popping figures that have resulted in a white-hot, speculative bubble in bitcoin and other so-called alternative assets, or altcoins.

Friday afternoon, Ripple surpassed Ethereum, previously ranked as the No. 2 most highly valued crypto. The total Ether token market is currently worth about $72 billion (Some point out that there are actually over a 100 million Ripple coins in existence, more than half of which are owned by its founders, which would bring the total value closer to $220 billion. Bitcoin’s total value stands at $245 billion. CoinMarketCap bases value on circulating supply).

Of all the breathlessness fervor around crypto assets, Ripple boasts the business with arguably the most legitimacy, but controversially so for bitcoin and digital-currency purists.

Ripple is designed to offer financial institutions faster interbank payment processing on its blockchain. Blockchain is the technology that underpins all cryptocurrencies and is typically defined as a decentralized, distributed ledger that helps records transactions and is immutable.

The problem for purists is that unlike other blockchains, Ripple, launched in 2012, is not decentralized. That means there is a third party or intermediary between transactions, whereas bitcoin and others are intended for person-to-person transactions.

Ripple is more like a payment processor akin to a PayPal Holdings Inc. PYPL, -0.74%   for the banking community.

San Francisco-based Ripple announced a $55 million funding round back in September, making it among the better capitalized crypto-related enterprises, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Recent reports also indicate that appetite from Asian companies in South Korea to use the Ripple service has helped lift the prominent asset.

More, broadly on Friday, altcoins were regaining some upward momentum, with bitcoin up about 2% at $14,700, but well above its mid-December peak approaching $20,000.

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