As Bitcoin’s bull run begins to show signs of fatigue, the altcoins are coming out to play.
Ether hit highs of $609.99 on Nov. 23 as its remarkable surge continued. And XRP—which has long had a reputation of being one of the worst-performing major cryptocurrencies in terms of price growth—leapt as high as $0.61.
BTC prices have risen by 9.7% over the past week, gains that aren’t to be sniffed at. But this pales in comparison to the 31.8% surge in ETH over the same period, while XRP climbed a staggering 113.25%.
Other major altcoins such as Chainlink, Bitcoin Cash, Litecoin and Polkadot have also secured double-digit price rises—prompting Bitcoin’s dominance to slip noticeably as the new working week began. At 6.30 p.m. ET on Sunday, BTC represented 63.8% of the crypto industry’s total market cap, but this had slipped to just 61.5% by 6.30pm ET on Monday.
Crypto Twitter had been fixated by the prospect of Bitcoin returning to all-time highs of $20,089 last week. But now, there’s a flurry of excitement about whether an “altseason” is around the corner.
What’s driving ETH’s surge?
In Ether’s case, the sizable gains come as the long-awaited (and delayed) Ethereum 2.0 mainnet nears launch.
Once 524,288 ETH (worth about $315 million) have been deposited into a smart contract, it will enable Ethereum 2.0’s beacon chain to be activated one week later. Developers had been hoping that a soft launch would occur on Dec. 1, and in order for this deadline to be met, these deposits would need to be made in full by Nov. 24.
At the time of writing, data from Etherscan showed that 449,312 ETH with a value of $272.1 million had been deposited—meaning it is 85% toward hitting the target. It seems likely that the milestone will be reached soon:, Just one day ago, on Nov. 22, Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin had tweeted:
“The #eth2 deposit contract has reached more than half of its target (currently at ~278000 ETH deposited), with the bulk of the deposits taking place in the last three days!”
It’s not a disaster if the deposit target isn’t reached on Nov. 24. Should this only happen on, say, Nov. 28, all it means is that the beacon chain would launch on Dec. 5 instead.
Ethereum 2.0 (and the transition to Proof-of-Stake that it brings) has widely been seen as bullish for the world’s second-largest cryptocurrency—not least because of concerns that the network is struggling to cope with current levels of demand brought about by the sudden rise of decentralized finance, or DeFi. If the ambitious upgrade is successful, the blockchain will be able to handle many times more transactions per second that it can currently.
ETH’s latest gains have cemented the cryptocurrency’s lead over BTC when it comes to year-to-date gains. Whereas Ether is trading 369% higher than it was on Jan. 1, Bitcoin is up 153% compared with where it was almost 11 months ago. (BTC aficionados would also argue that it has experienced far healthier returns if performance is measured from March’s flash crash up until now.)
XRP wakes up
After losing its coveted No. 3 slot in the rankings of the world’s biggest cryptocurrencies to the Tether stablecoin, XRP, the cryptocurrency most closely associated with Ripple, has regained the spot.
In terms of what has caused the surge, the on-chain analytics firm Santiment wrote: “The amount of unique addresses transacting on the $XRP network in a single day (24,408) was the highest output since May 1st.”
Ripple has attracted criticism for selling off its vast supplies of XRP in recent years, amid fears that this waters down the value of the altcoin. But on Nov. 5, the company revealed that it had been buying back supply “to support healthy markets”—and hinted that it may continue to do so in the future.
The gains have even attracted the attention of financial news channels such as CNBC, which tend to focus more on stocks, bonds, and commodities than the ups and downs of the crypto world.
Now, the question is whether the likes of ETH and XRP—and indeed BTC—have the staying power to return to the elusive all-time highs seen in late 2017 and early 2018.
Bitcoin remains tantalizingly close to the record of $20,089 set the week before Christmas in 2017… and is a 9.5% increase from matching this level. Ether has much farther to go, and would need to rise by 130% from its current price point to return to an all-time high. XRP also has its work cut out to match the glory days, as a 540% surge is needed should the altcoin surpass the previous high watermark of $3.84.
Then again, crazier things have happened in the crypto markets, haven’t they?