Bitcoin, the cryptocurrency that's soared in value this year, plunged below $11,000 Friday morning, sinking by nearly half from a record high it hit less than a week ago.
Heavy traffic disrupted trading in the cryptocurrency at one of the biggest Bitcoin marketplaces Friday morning. Coinbase said at about 8:30 PT that "buys and sells may be intermittently offline." It later said the high volume of trades had made its network unavailable for about two hours.
The cryptocurrency, which allows anonymous transactions unrestricted by global borders, is popular with tech heads, people suspicious of government and -- more notoriously -- those seeking to launder money. But the eye-popping run-up in Bitcoin's value this year has lured more mainstream interest in cryptocurrencies purely as an investment opportunity. Bitcoin's lack of government backing and regulation, however, also leads to volatility, like the dramatic swings seen this week.
Bitcoin dropped at one point Friday morning to $10,400, according to charts on exchange Coinbase. In Coinbase trading before trades halted, it was valued at about $13,450.
Even though the cryptocurrency started the year at less than $1,000, it rocketed to a record high above $19,800 on Sunday. Though the price retrenched earlier this week to trade around $15,500 for much of Thursday, a selloff hit that afternoon and accelerated Friday morning.
Investment firm Goldman Sachs reportedly plans to create a trading desk to handle digital currencies by the middle of next year, Bloomberg News reported Thursday, suggesting that mainstream investor interest could grow. But regulators have warned about cryptocurrencies' relative lack of investor protections, fostering an environment ripe for scams.
First published Dec. 22, 7:14 a.m. PT
Update, 8:50 a.m.: Adds info on Coinbase disruption; Dec. 23 at 8:56 a.m. PT: Adds more info on Coinbase outage.