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Greek crisis spurs bitcoin demand

Greek mayhem has boosted bitcoin demand as dealers of cryptocurrencies position them as a potential haven alternative to conventional ones like gold.  The latter is a much bigger market than bitcoin, with the investable market estimated over $2tn, as compared to bitcoin with a market capitalisation of only $3.7bn. However, institutional and larger investors appear to have levelled off on gold's traditional role as a haven investment.

"Unless there is a rapid deterioration in the situation in Greece in the coming days and weeks, it's difficult to see gold having a more notable reaction," UBS analyst Joni Teves wrote in a research note.

Thanos Marinos, the founder of BTCGreece, said the number of newly registered users in the country rose by 600 per cent in the past few weeks.

"That has to do with the fact we're the only exchange available at the moment for the Greeks to buy bitcoin," he said. "Nobody can make any payments outside of Greece due to the capital controls."

Not only in Greece, but the demand for bitcoin has also picked up in other pockets of Europe.

"We've definitely seen a pick-up in interest," Mark Lamb, founder of London-based bitcoin exchange Coinfloor, said. "Greeks aren't necessarily buying bitcoin in droves because of the capital controls but countries all around Europe are buying bitcoin in response to the Greek events."

Mark O'Byrne, founder of gold broker GoldCore, pointed out that the risks associated with holding bitcoin are also greater, citing the shutdown of Japan-based MTGox that happened last year.

"Some of them are hoarding it and seeing it as a potential store of value, but the jury is out on that still," Mr O'Byrne said.

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