First Mover: Short Shrift for XRP Token's 169% Price Surge as Traders Obsess Over Bitcoin

XRP soared 169% in November, topping performance of the CoinDesk 20 digital assets during a month when bitcoin dominated headlines.

AccessTimeIconDec 2, 2020 at 2:21 p.m. UTC
Updated Feb 16, 2022 at 7:36 p.m. UTC
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Bitcoin was higher, in an indecisive-looking market swinging between about $18,300 and $19,300. Prices have failed to push higher after surging to a new all-time high of $19,920 earlier this week.

"Expect additional short-term volatility," Katie Stockton, a technical analyst for Fairlead Strategies, told CoinDesk's Daniel Cawrey.

In traditional markets, European stocks slipped and U.S. stock futures pointed to a lower open as lawmakers discussed new economic stimulus measures and traders awaited new data on U.S. jobs growth during November. Gold strengthened 0.7% to $1,827 an ounce.

The 10-year U.S. breakeven rate, representing inflation expectations as implied by bond markets, rose to 1.81% on Tuesday, the highest since July 2019.

Market moves

As bitcoin dominated headlines in November with its rally toward an all-time high, one of the most prominent alternative cryptocurrencies, XRP, quietly jumped 169% during the month to top the performance rankings among digital assets in the CoinDesk 20.

The move left XRP, the payments token used in Ripple’s global payments network, up 225% in 2020, versus the older and larger bitcoin’s 165% gain. XRP has a market capitalization of $21.4 billion, a fraction of bitcoin’s roughly $350 billion.

The frenzy may be driven by a looming airdrop of free “spark” tokens to anyone who holds XRP, some digital-markets analysts told CoinDesk last month.

There’s also the possibility that some first-time cryptocurrency buyers are unaware it’s possible to buy a fraction of a bitcoin – divisible up to the eighth decimal – instead of a whole token. For the novice investor, XRP, currently changing hands at 62.3 cents, looks a lot cheaper on a price table than bitcoin’s $19,087.

“As the digital asset space has seen renewed interest in the second half of 2020, a new wave of investors are looking for ways to get exposure,” said Brian Mosoff, CEO of the publicly traded Canadian investment fund Ether Capital. “Ripple appears to offer exposure in their portfolio, and a quick Google search may result in some users believing XRP is cheap and likely to become a product banks utilize for cross-border settlement.”

Stellar, another payments token founded by Ripple co-founder Jed McCaleb, was the second-best performer in November among the CoinDesk 20, gaining 153%. It’s up 313% on the year.

For comparison, bitcoin rallied 40% in November while ether, the native cryptocurrency of the Ethereum blockchain, rose 56%.

- Bradley Keoun

CoinDesk 20 Asset Returns for November
CoinDesk 20 Asset Returns for November

Bitcoin watch

Bitcoin daily price chart showing market pause after surge to all-time high.
Bitcoin daily price chart showing market pause after surge to all-time high.

Token watch

Ether (ETH): Price correlation with bitcoin holds strong during latest rally.

Bitcoin (BTC): Larry Fink, CEO of money management giant BlackRock, tells former Bank of England Governor Mark Carney at Council on Foreign Relations that bitcoin has "caught the attention" of many people and could "evolve" into a global asset.

USD Coin (USDC): Centre, overseers of standards for dollar-based stablecoin USDC, hires former CLS, JPMorgan, State Street executive David Puth as first CEO.

What's hot

  • Institutional bitcoin shop NYDIG raises $150M for twin crypto funds (CoinDesk)
  • Not so fast! CoinMarketCap says bitcoin prices haven't yet topped the all-time high based on its own records, at $20,089 in December 2017 versus CoinDesk's old $19,783 (and now $19,920) using the Bitcoin Price Index (CoinMarketCap)
  • Almost 20% of PayPal users have used app to trade bitcoin, Japanese securities firm Mizuho says (CoinDesk)
  • Russia says digital ruble will be only token allowed as form of payment in country, with law banning use of cryptocurrencies for payment set to take effect in January (CoinDesk)
  • Blockchair lead developer Zhavoronkov mounts campaign to stop Taproot upgrade on Bitcoin network (CoinDesk)
  • Libra Association rebrands to "Diem" in effort to distance itself from Facebook-led stablecoin push that brought international regulatory backlash (CoinDesk)
  • Cryptocurrency derivatives platform ErisX launches cash-settled contracts after physically settled futures fall flat (CoinDesk)
  • "We have built money for a world that’s geographically divided, but that’s not the word we live in anymore," Ajit Tripathi writes in op-ed (CoinDesk Opinion)
  • BlockFi announces early 2021 launch for bitcoin rewards credit card (CoinDesk)
  • Hottest debate on Wall Street is whether to buy bitcoin or gold (Bloomberg)
  • Australian crypto exchange BTC Markets accidentally exposes personal data of 270K users (CoinDesk)


The latest on the economy and traditional finance

European Central Bank chief economist privately gave dovish assurances to Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan, Citigroup, UBS, Deutsche Bank, BlackRock after ECB President Lagarde publicly made comments on Italian bond market, economy's health that were seen by investors as hawkish (WSJ)

Bipartisan group of U.S. senators introduce new stimulus proposal worth about $908 billion (Washington Post)

In global markets, "everyone already expects everything to be really fantastic," implying the optimism is already priced in, columnist James Mackintosh writes (WSJ)

Japan wants to attract foreign talent in the financial sector by slashing income taxes (Nikkei Asia Review)

Huawei Technologies gets foothold in Southeast Asia after partnering with Indonesian government (Nikkei Asia Review)

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CoinDesk is an award-winning media outlet that covers the cryptocurrency industry. Its journalists abide by a strict set of editorial policies. In November 2023, CoinDesk was acquired by the Bullish group, owner of Bullish, a regulated, digital assets exchange. The Bullish group is majority-owned by; both companies have interests in a variety of blockchain and digital asset businesses and significant holdings of digital assets, including bitcoin. CoinDesk operates as an independent subsidiary with an editorial committee to protect journalistic independence. CoinDesk employees, including journalists, may receive options in the Bullish group as part of their compensation.

Bradley Keoun

Bradley Keoun is the managing editor of CoinDesk's Tech & Protocols team. He owns less than $1,000 each of several cryptocurrencies.

Omkar Godbole

Omkar Godbole is a Co-Managing Editor on CoinDesk's Markets team.

Sebastian Sinclair

Sebastian Sinclair is a CoinDesk news reporter based in Australia.

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