© Reuters.

By Tom Wilson

LONDON (Reuters) – broke through $18,000 (13,543 pounds) on Wednesday to hit its highest since December 2017 extending its blistering 2020 rally driven by demand for its perceived quality as an inflation hedge and expectations of mainstream acceptance.

The original and biggest cryptocurrency jumped as high as $18,483 and was last up 2%. It has soared about 160% this year and has jumped 17% in the last three days alone.

Bitcoin is now close to its all-time high of just under $20,000, which it touched at the peak of its retail investor-fuelled 2017 bubble.

“It is not out of the question for the crypto to hit its all-time high of $20,000 this side of Christmas,” said Simon Peters, analyst at investment platform eToro.

“The crypto industry has consolidated, matured and is seeing real traction with institutional investors. Investors are using bitcoin as an inflationary hedge to combat the prospect of continued government stimulus.”

The asset’s 12-year history has been peppered with vertiginous price rises and equally sharp crashes.

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