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Bitcoin hits new high, topping $66,000, on mainstream hopes for cryptocurrency

Bitcoin mining and its environmental costs
Bitcoin mining and its environmental costs 08:17

Bitcoin jumped to a record high Wednesday morning, topping $66,000, as the cryptocurrency rides a wave of excitement about its potential mainstreaming by the financial establishment.

Bitcoin was trading at $66,386.21 as of 1:30 p.m. EST. It's rallied back after sinking below $30,000 during the summer to top its prior record set in April of nearly $64,889, according to Coindesk.

The launch Tuesday of the first exchange-traded fund linked to bitcoin attracted huge interest from investors looking to get into the surging field of cryptocurrencies. Some 24 million shares of the ProShares BitCoin Strategy ETF were exchanged in a resounding debut day that generated a share price rise of more than 4%.

The ETF doesn't invest directly in bitcoin. It instead invests in the futures market tied to bitcoin. That means the fund will invest in bets on where the digital coin will be priced in the future. The market is overseen by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, or CFTC.

Bitcoin mining and its environmental costs 08:17

The industry sees the ETF as offering a way for a new class of investors to get involved in bitcoin.

"We believe a multitude of investors have been eagerly awaiting the launch of a bitcoin-linked ETF after years of efforts," ProShares CEO Michael Sapir said in a news release. The new ETF will offer a venue to bitcoin to investors with a brokerage account who might otherwise not want to venture into volatile and unregulated terrain, he added.

For years, applications to launch a bitcoin ETF have been delayed or denied by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. But SEC Chair Gary Gensler recently signaled that the agency might allow crypto ETFs based on futures rather than the digital coin itself. 

CBS News' Kate Gibson contributed reporting.

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