Ethereum just topped $500 for the first time

Ether, the digital token of the Ethereum blockchain, just reached a major milestone.

The price of the cryptocurrency surpassed $600 for the first time Tuesday, and surged as high as $635.00, according to data by CoinDesk, whose price index tracks prices from cryptoexchanges Bitstamp, Coinbase and Bitfinex. This marked a renewed all-time high for ether.

Ether is the second-largest digital currency by market value, according to Coinmarketcap data, and is commonly used in digital coin sales known as initial coin offerings (ICOs). Its price has risen more than 5,000 percent since the start of the year, according to CoinDesk data.

The rise in value appeared to occur following reports that Swiss banking giant UBS would lead an Ethereum-based blockchain platform alongside other firms including Barclays, Credit Suisse, KBC, Swiss stock exchange SIX and Thomson Reuters. The network will reportedly be used to help participants in the project comply with the European Union’s Markets in Financial Instruments Directive II (MiFID II), an overhaul of EU rules that aims to make trading within the bloc more transparent.

Blockchain is the technology that underpins cryptocurrencies like ether and bitcoin. Also known as distributed ledger technology, blockchain is a continuously growing log of data that is decentralized, meaning it is not governed by any central authority.

“The news that Ethereum is being used as a base identity layer in conjunction with some of the larger banking giants out there is a positive ratification of the technology,” Charles Hayter, chief executive of digital currency comparison site Crypto Compare, told CNBC in an email.

Bitcoin, the world’s largest cryptocurrency, made its debut on a major futures exchange Sunday. Hayter said that bitcoin’s move into a more conventional markets may lead investors to believe Ethereum to be the next big listing on Wall Street.

“Ethereum as a clear number two in the space is an obvious choice to receive the same treatment and have futures listed. It would be no surprise if these plans were already in the works.”

The cryptocurrency market has received unprecedented attention from investors this year. The total market capitalization of all digital assets currently stands at $466 billion, according to Coinmarketcap data.

“The strong rise in bitcoin has brought a lot of new individuals to the space — they will naturally be looking to replicate returns and Ethereum, which has been in the doldrums comparatively, might look like a good bet for some yield,” Hayter added.

Here's what sets Ethereum apart from its rival Bitcoin


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