FILE PHOTO: A collection of Bitcoin (virtual currency) tokens are displayed in this picture illustration
INTERNATIONAL - Bitcoin climbed above the $11000 (R162204) level for the first time since mid-July and led gains among the biggest cryptocurrencies, as risk assets across Asia, Europe and North America tumbled on escalating trade-war tensions.

The largest cryptocurrency surged as much as 14percent from Friday’s close and traded at $11809 at 10.35am in New York, according to consolidated Bloomberg pricing.

The Bloomberg Galaxy Crypto Index tracking a basket of cryptocurrencies jumped 8.6percent, as rival digital coins including Ether and Litecoin also rallied.

“With the turmoil in markets and the streets, suddenly digital gold doesn’t seem like such a bad idea,” Jehan Chu, managing partner at blockchain investment and advisory firm Kenetic Capital, said from Hong Kong, where massive public protests continue.

“Bitcoin is increasingly seen not only as a bet on the future, but as a shelter for the present.”

While Bitcoin historically has had relatively low correlation with most asset classes, it has lately moved inversely to Asian stocks.

Equities were roiled yesterday after China’s yuan fell past 7 to the dollar, a key psychological level for traders.

The risk-off shift intensified on reports China had asked state buyers to halt imports of American agriculture imports, further escalating trade tensions after US President Donald Trump last week proposed adding 10percent tariffs on another $300billion in Chinese imports starting on September 1.

“A lot of this might have to do with some capital flight out of China after Trump’s tariff announcement,” said Tom Maxon, head of US operations at electronic-payment products company CoolBitX.

He noted that it is hard to tell for sure, and said the current Bitcoin bull market has produced a lot of positive dynamics that could be fuelling the move as well.

An increasing premium in the futures’ trading prices “is indicative of growing buy-and-hold interest,” said Bloomberg Intelligence strategist Mike McGlone, in a note published yesterday.

Bitcoin’s rally this month comes after a July sell-off as lawmakers including Trump questioned Facebook’s plan to create its own cryptocurrency Libra.

The digital currency has more than tripled this year, recovering much of its plunge that happened during 2018.

“Bitcoin should test $12000 soon,” said Charles Yang, head trader at Hong Kong-based over-the-counter digital-asset trading firm Genesis Block.

“This is, of course, assuming we believe macro issues actually drive Bitcoin.”  

BLOOMBERG