Bitcoin is stealing the spotlight from gold as trading among first-time buyers slid to the lowest point since the metal's price sank in 2015, new data suggests.
Gold trading among existing private investors rebounded as bullion prices steadied in November, but falling interest among new investors caused BullionVault's gold investor index to dip to 53.9 from October's 54.6, with a reading of 50 meaning the number of buyers and sellers were exactly the same.
The number of BullionVault users starting or growing their gold holdings in November around the world was little changed from the month before, down 2.6 per cent from October.
Meanwhile, internet searches for "buy bitcoin" overtook "buy gold" last month as the cryptocurrency shot to $11,000.
"Whether or not bitcoin ever achieves common use as money, the crypto-currency plainly offers investors a hot speculation and not a safe haven right now," said Adrian Ash, director of research at BullionVault, the world's largest online marketplace for physical precious metals.
A JP Morgan note published earlier this month said the coming introduction of bitcoin futures "has the potential to elevate cryptocurrencies to an emerging asset class", joining the likes of gold.
JP Morgan analysts said: "The prospective launch of bitcoin futures contracts by established exchanges in particular has the potential to add legitimacy and thus increase the appeal of the cryptocurrency market to both retail and institutional investors... And this is important for an asset class that derived its value from its breadth of acceptance.
"In other words, the perceived value would rise over time if more people use bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies as a store of wealth and more merchants accept it as a means of payment in exchange for goods or services."
Neil Wilson, senior market analyst at ETX Capital, said renewed momentum in bitocin seemed to be down to growing interest in cryptocurrencies.
"Certainly JP Morgan’s volte face, saying it could be the new gold, is a factor in what seems to be a growing trend to legitimise cryptos."
However, he warned: "I still see this as a speculative bubble it’s just unclear how far it will go and when it could blow up. The price is still simply an example of greater fool theory – you’re only buying it at $11k because you think there is someone else who will pay more for it."
Naeem Aslam, chief market analyst at Think Markets, said the "crypto king" could touch the level of $25,000 in 2018 "and that is only a modest target, given the gains we have seen so far this year".