© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A representation of virtual currency Bitcoin is seen in front of a stock graph

By Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Inflows into cryptocurrency funds and products hit a record $4.5 billion in the first quarter, suggesting increased institutional participation in the once-maligned sector, data from digital currency manager Coinshares showed on Tuesday.

The first quarter inflows represented an 11% increase from the last three months of 2020, which hit $3.9 billion.

Investments into crypto, however, slowed in the first quarter compared with the fourth, where growth was 240%, data showed. Coinshares said in the report, however, that this was not “indicative of a broader slowing trend, as quarterly growth rates tend to be highly varied.”

On Monday, the cryptocurrency sector hit an all-time peak of $2 trillion in market capitalization. ‘s market cap was more than $1 trillion, holding that milestone level for one whole week.

“There’s so much momentum that’s building and people are scrambling to see where the other coins, aside from bitcoin, are going,” said Edward Moya, senior market analyst at online FX trading platform OANDA.

Bitcoin had the most inflows in the first quarter with $3.5 billion, according to the Coinshares data, followed by ethereum, which posted $765 million in investments.

The largest cryptocurrency in terms of market cap hit a record high of $61,781.83 in mid-March, but has since traded in a narrow range as investors consolidated gains.

Crypto assets under management have also surged to a peak of $59 billion, CoinShares data showed. Last year, assets under management for the sector hit $37.6 billion.

Grayscale is still the largest digital currency manager, with $46.1 billion in assets, while CoinShares, the second biggest and the largest European digital asset manager, oversees about $5.1 billion in assets.

Of the $59 billion in assets under management, active investment managers represented just 1.5% of total assets under management, down from 3.6% at the start of the fourth quarter last year.

Total market volumes remained high during the quarter, averaging $11.6 billion per day, compared with $3.5 billion in the last three months of 2020.

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