Bitcoin jumps after report suggests BlackRock is getting serious about the cryptocurrency market

The price of bitcoin surged Monday after a report said that BlackRock has set up a working group to explore ways of taking advantage of the cryptocurrency market.

Financial News newspaper, citing two unnamed sources, said that BlackRock has formed a team from different parts of the business to investigate cryptocurrencies and blockchain, the technology that underpins them.

According to one of the sources, the asset management giant will study whether it should invest in bitcoin futures. The sources also said that BlackRock’s working group will keep a close eye on what its competitors are doing in regard to cryptocurrencies and blockchain.

“Like most financial institutions, BlackRock has a working group that meets periodically to exchange information on blockchain and consists of employees from various parts of the business,” a spokesperson for the company said in an emailed statement.

“We have been looking at blockchain technology for several years, recognizing potential for shared processes and data across market participants, clearing, settlement and reconciliation and simplified securities issuance.”

CNBC understands that the working group is not a new development and has, in fact, existed since 2015.

Following the report, BlackRock Chief Executive Larry Fink threw any speculation that the investment manager is looking to buy into bitcoin out of the window.

“I don’t believe any client has sought out crypto exposure,” he told Bloomberg on Monday. “I’ve not heard from one client who says, ‘I need to be in this.’”

Fink has previously railed against bitcoin, calling it an “index of money laundering.”

The news follows a report by Fortune magazine that hedge fund billionaire Steve Cohen’s venture arm Cohen Private Ventures invested in Autonomous Partners, a cryptocurrency-focused investment fund.

Many industry experts believe that increased involvement from institutional investors in the cryptocurrency space will boost confidence in an otherwise dubious market.

“It definitely is causing some excitement,” Mati Greenspan, senior market analyst at eToro, said of the report on Monday. “The idea of big financial firms moving into crypto certainly isn’t new and this is a trend we’ve been noticing gaining strength since November.”

Last year, two trading giants, CME Group and the CBOE, launched bitcoin futures products, lifting hopes of institutional involvement in cryptocurrencies.

Virtual currencies have been shrouded in doubt due to excessive volatility in the market resulting in wild price swings. Bitcoin soared close to $20,000 late last year, but has declined since, with transaction volumes falling significantly.

Financial regulators around the world are concerned about the speculative nature of cryptocurrencies, and their possible use for illicit activities. China and South Korea have both banned a practice known as an initial coin offering (ICO), for instance, which is a means of start-ups selling new digital tokens to propel their business.

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