Patrick T. Fallon — Bloomberg via Getty Images
Bitcoin and other digital currencies have always been volatile, so a big daily drop is not unusual. That said, Tuesday was a particularly ugly day for crypto investors as every major currency fell by anywhere from 15% to 28%.
A back-of-the-envelope calculation by Fortune shows that the top 10 currencies had collectively lost $108 billon in 24 hours as of 3 pm ET on Tuesday.
The screen shot below, courtesy CoinmarketCap, shows how the pain was spread around. Bitcoin lost the most in terms of absolute value (about $39.2 billion) but only 16.7% of its overall market cap, while once high-flying Ripple dropped 27.4% (a loss of $19.1 billion):
These 10 currencies account for the vast majority of the crypto-currency market’s overall value, though there are hundreds of smaller and more obscure currencies that are together worth tens of billions of dollars. Those currencies—with a handful of exceptions—likewise took a beating on Tuesday.
There doesn’t appear to be one single explanation for Tuesday’s drop in crypto-currency values, though reports of Chinese regulatory action may be a factor. More broadly, the market has been slumping for over a week following an upswing in early January.
While Bitcoin has weathered numerous crashes in the past, and always bounced back, the current situation may be different. That is partly due to the flood of other currencies, many of them with little pedigree or purpose, that have come into the market. It is also different in that the recent price speculative flurry has attracted a large number of traditional financial firms and ordinary investors, many of whom only learned about digital currencies in recent months.