Ethereum hits $800 ahead of its big week

Ethereum is doing well, but its future is uncertain.

Image: WIT OLSZEWSKI/SHUTTERSTOCK

Ethereum, the second-largest cryptocurrency by market cap (behind Bitcoin), has a potentially tumultuous week ahead, but investors don’t seem to care. 

The price of ether briefly hit $800 on Friday (it’s currently trading at about $795), a monthly high and a 118% increase since its April low point of $367. 

The rally spells optimism from investors, but there’s plenty hanging in the balance for Ethereum. According to a Wall Street Journal report published Tuesday, U.S. regulators are looking into whether Ethereum (and other cryptocurrencies) should be regulated as securities. 

According to the report, a working group comprised of senior SEC and CFTC officials will meet to discuss this issue on Monday, May 7. 

Ethereum is primarily a platform for decentralized applications, which gives it the kind of utility that makes it harder to classify as a security. Additionally, the Ethereum Foundation, which governs Ethereum’s progress, holds less than 1% of ether tokens, meaning it doesn’t have a large direct influence on the price. 

On the other hand, Ethereum was funded via an initial coin offering in 2014, raising roughly $18.3 million in bitcoins, and its price did skyrocket thousands of percent since then. In a recent talk, ex-CTFC chairman Gary Gensler said that while Bitcoin, Litecoin and Bitcoin Cash likely aren’t securities, Ethereum and Ripple might be — or are in a gray area at best.

 

Should U.S. regulators declare Ethereum a security, it would have serious ramifications not only for Ethereum itself, but for numerous other blockchain-based coins, many of which have launched on Ethereum’s platform and are funded via ICOs. Gensler said many ICOs are operating “outside of U.S. law,” which is just another way to say “illegal.” He did say, however, that whichever way the SEC decides, we’ll likely be looking at a lengthy court proceeding that could take months or even years. 

The WSJ’s report caused a sharp drop of Ethereum’s price, but the recovery was swift, perhaps due to Ethereum co-founder Joseph Lubin declaring he’s “extremely comfortable” that Ethereum is not a security. 

There are other interesting developments in the world of Ethereum coming. A major Ethereum conference, Consensus, will kick off in in New York City on May 14, and it typically attracts numerous Ethereum experts, developers and investors. We’ll likely see many new projects as well as some important updates there. 

Ethereum’s leaders have been busy when it comes to moving the platform forward. Co-founder Vitalik Buterin recently proposed a way to implement sharding into Ethereum, a technology that would vastly increase Ethereum’s network speed.

Ethereum’s market cap is at $79.5 billion at writing according to CoinMarketCap. It’s been steadily growing in the last month, but it’s still a far cry from its January high of $139 billion. Bitcoin, which is likely off the hook when it comes to being declared a security, is still far ahead with a price of $9,691 per bitcoin and a $165 billion market cap. 

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