Bitcoin Virtual Currency Is on Verge of Collapse
It was supposed to revolutionize the global monetary system. Instead, the bitcoin virtual currency that has captured the imagination of investors and financiers is on the verge of collapse.
In a stunning blow to a novel way to buy products and services, the world’s largest exchange for trading bitcoin currency shut down Tuesday, triggering a massive sell-off and sending many prospective investors away — perhaps for good.
“This is extremely destructive,” said Mark Williams, a risk-management expert and former Federal Reserve Bank examiner. “What we’re seeing is a lot of the flaws. It’s not only fragile, it’s fragile as eggshells.”
The mysterious circumstances that triggered the failure of the exchange, Mt. Gox in Tokyo, is only adding to the renewed anxiety over the virtual currency, which just a month earlier had been gaining momentum and supporters.
After saying users could not withdraw their funds, Mt. Gox suddenly ceased all operations, including shutting down its website. Mt. Gox users may have lost more than $300 million worth of bitcoins in what was the latest and biggest in a series of recent setbacks for the virtual currency.
The currency exists only online, and its value is based on an algorithm. Investors buy bitcoins with dollars, euros and other real currency. A purchase with bitcoins typically involves transferring an amount from the buyer’s bitcoin “digital wallet” to the seller’s wallet on the Internet.