May 24, 2017 / 2:45 PM / 3 months ago

Bitcoin soars above $2,400 to all-time high

A Bitcoin (virtual currency) paper wallet with QR codes and a coin are seen in an illustration picture shot May 27, 2015.Benoit Tessier/Illustration/File Photo

(Reuters) - Digital currency bitcoin hit a fresh record high on Wednesday, surging above $2,400, as demand for crypto-assets soared with the creation of new tokens to raise funding for start-ups using blockchain technology.

Blockchain, the underlying technology behind bitcoin, is a financial ledger maintained by a network of computers that can track the movement of any asset without the need for a central regulator.

Bitcoin hit a record of $2,409 BTC=BTSP on the BitStamp platform and was last up 4.3 percent at $2,363. So far this year, the price of bitcoin has more than doubled.

A key reason for bitcoin's dominance in the nefarious online underworld, say technologists and cyber crime experts, is its size - the total value of all bitcoins in circulation is more than twice that of the nearest of hundreds of rivals.

Also, a big part of bitcoin's recent surge is the increase in demand for other digital currencies being sold in so-called "initial coin offerings", or ICOs. Under ICOs, blockchain start-ups sell their tokens directly to the public to raise capital without any regulatory oversight.

"Bitcoin up 100 percent in under 2 months. Shanghai down almost 10 percent same timeframe, compared to most global stocks up. Probably not a coincidence!", Jeffrey Gundlach, chief executive at DoubleLine Capital tweeted on Tuesday.

Strong demand for bitcoins in Japan has also fuelled the rise of the virtual currency that can be moved like money around the world quickly and anonymously without the need for a central authority.

Reporting by Sruthi Shankar in Bengaluru; Editing by Martina D'Couto

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