Bitcoin fever continues as Goldman Sachs studies whether to trade in digital currencies

By AFP
Published: October 3, 2017
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Some of Bitcoin enthusiast Mike Caldwell's coins and paper vouchers, often called "paper wallets", are pictured at his office in this photo illustration in Sandy, Utah, January 31, 2014. Caldwell recommended their use as a way to store Bitcoins offline. PHOTO: REUTERS

Some of Bitcoin enthusiast Mike Caldwell's coins and paper vouchers, often called "paper wallets", are pictured at his office in this photo illustration in Sandy, Utah, January 31, 2014. Caldwell recommended their use as a way to store Bitcoins offline. PHOTO: REUTERS

Goldman Sachs is exploring whether to launch a trading venture in bitcoin in response to client demand, a person familiar with the matter said Monday.

Goldman’s consideration of the digital currency could give bitcoin a boost at a time when it is under criticism in China and by some large banks.

Goldman is looking at establishing a team that could trade bitcoin and other digital currencies, said a person familiar with the bank’s thinking.

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The venture might resemble other Goldman teams that trade euros or treasury bonds. Goldman has received interest from a variety of parties, including investment funds, insurers and corporate clients. The study is at an early stage and may not yield a decision to proceed with such a venture, the person said.

“In response to client interest in digital currencies, we are exploring how best to serve them in the space,” said Goldman spokeswoman Tiffany Galvin.

Large banks like Goldman Sachs have until now avoided trading in bitcoin due to its reputation as a conduit for illicit activity.

At the same time, financial companies have been active in the development of “blockchain,” the underlying technology of bitcoin, which is seen as a potentially important technology.

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Bitcoin critics include JPMorgan Chase chief executive Jamie Dimon, who called the digital currency a “fraud” that will eventually “blow up.”

But Morgan Stanley chief executive James Gorman offered measured praise for bitcoin last week, calling it “obviously highly speculative” but “not something that’s inherently bad.”

Bitcoin has retreated since breaching the psychologically important $5,000 level on September 1.

On Monday, it traded at $4,375.

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