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Crypto markets brace for historic upgrade of Ethereum blockchain

Cryptocurrencies traded in tight ranges on Thursday as the clock ticked down to a major software upgrade of Ethereum, the most commercially important blockchain in the digital-asset sector. Bitcoin edged up to about $20,000 while Ether, the native token of Ethereum, also made modest gains to hover around $1,605 as of 11:21am in Tokyo. The MVIS CryptoCompare Digital Assets 100 Index has shed some 6% this week.

Ethereum’s revamp – known as the Merge – will make it vastly more energy efficient and over time pave the way for it to scale up and become quicker, according to the network’s developers. They say an update years in the making will go smoothly, though some investors are wary of possible hiccups. “The market is pricing in a virtually successful Merge to happen,” Teong Hng, co-founder at digital-asset platform Satori Research, said on Bloomberg TV. “For institutional investors, ones who are ESG conscious, they will use this as an opportunity to dip their toes into blockchain, into tokens, into Ethereum.” Exchanges and lending platforms began temporarily disabling Ethereum-related services before the Merge, which is due to be completed in the next few hours. If all goes to plan, they will later come back online once the revamp is done.

Ether has climbed about 80% since a mid-June low, far outstripping Bitcoin, partly on Merge hype. That rally is cooling and another market risk is that investors will take profits, judging the narrative has played out for now. But the medium and longer term Ether outlook is brighter, according to Stefan Rust, chief executive of blockchain development house Laguna Labs. In a note, he said Ether could top $3,000 by the end of this year and possibly achieve the so-called “flippening” in time, referring to the idea that its market value might overtake Bitcoin’s. Both Bitcoin and Ether are down more than 50% in 2022, hurt by rising interest rates that sucked liquidity from global markets.

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