Ethereum Just Broke $700 for the First Time

Ethereum caught a tailwind higher on Wednesday, as prices broke above $700 for the first time ever amid general optimism in the cryptocurrency arena.

ETH/USD Price Levels

The ETH/USD exchange rate was trading at session highs at press time, rising 18% to $721. Trade volumes surged, with 24-hour turnover exceeding $5.2 billion. That’s equivalent to around 301,779 bitcoin.

Trading activity was spread out across the major exchanges, with Coinbase’s GDAX accounting for more than 11% of total transactions. South Korea’s Bithumb also accounted for roughly 11% of the daily transactions.

At present values, Ethereum’s market cap is $68.7 billion, according to CoinMarketCap. Ethereum is the world’s second largest cryptocurrency by overall market capitalization, outshined only by bitcoin.

Ether’s surge appears to have originated Tuesday afternoon, when prices first broke $600. By the early evening, ETH/USD was trading near $670. A sharp correction back down to $600 would soon follow before prices resumed higher over the next 12 hours.

Prior to the latest rally, ether found itself in a prolonged rut as prices struggled to rise above $500. Some analysts say ether’s transaction woes are limiting its upward momentum. The platform currently supports around 15 transactions per second. By comparison, Visa processes 45,000 per second. For ether to generate mainstream appeal, it will likely have to increase its transaction capacity. Discussions on the best way of doing so are ongoing.

Swiss Banking Giants Leverage Ethereum

Ether’s newfound strength comes on the heels of a new partnership announced by Swiss financiers UBS, Barclays and others to advance data collection and reconciliation tied to upcoming MiFID II regulations. The consortia, which also includes KBC, SIX and Thomson Reuters, is relying on Ethereum’s smart contracts to allow financial institutions to identify and sort out data-related anomalies. By leveraging smart contracts, the banks will be able to reconcile sensitive reference data without compromising sensitive information.

By using smart contracts, the banks hope to bring down costs associated with data collection and storage.

A UBS analyst heralded the partnership as an important step in advancing blockchain’s benefits beyond the obvious clearing and settlement market. MiFID II regulations will come into effect Jan. 3.

The cryptocurrency’s use cases have grown since the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance (EEA) was established. EEA boasts an impressive collection of Fortune 500 companies, startups and subject matter experts converging on smart contract research and development. The goal of the Alliance is to “define enterprise-grade software capable of handling the most complex, highly demanding applications at the speed of business.”

Disclaimer: The author owns bitcoin, Ethereum and other cryptocurrencies. He holds investment positions in the coins, but does not engage in short-term or day-trading.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Chief Editor to and Contributor to, Sam Bourgi has spent the past nine years focused on economics, markets and cryptocurrencies. His work has been featured in and cited by some of the world's leading newscasts, including Barron's, CBOE and Forbes. Avid crypto watchers and those with a libertarian persuasion can follow him on twitter at @hsbourgi