Bitcoin prices plunged about 15 per cent in Asian trade Wednesday before recouping some of the losses as investors apparently took fright at news that a South Korean exchange had been hacked.
The unit, which hit a record US$19,500 at the start of the week, took a hit as it emerged that South Korean exchange Youbit had been hacked, leading the firm to say it will close and start bankruptcy proceedings, according to Bloomberg News.
Separately, US authorities on Tuesday suspended trading in a popular Bitcoin-related stock, citing concerns about market manipulation.
The Crypto Company's share price had risen 1,700 per cent between the end of September and Monday evening before the Securities Exchange Commission intervened to halt trades until January 4.
"Both the news of South Korea's exchange having been hacked and position adjustment following recent rallies affected the market today," Raita Yamaguchi, senior consultant at Nomura Research Institute, told AFP.
However, "the weight of South Korea as a Bitcoin market is not that big," he added.
Bitcoin dropped to US$15,815.78 in early Tokyo trade from US$18,000 Tuesday evening, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
The cryptocurrency recovered to around US$16,000 in early afternoon trade in Tokyo.
Bitcoin has soared almost 20-fold since the start of the year and this month saw it move into the mainstream as two major US exchanges began trading futures in the unit. NVG