A Tuesday record high price of $17,631.42 for bitcoin was not enough to enthuse traders for a sustained rally. The cryptocurrency passed the $17,000 mark once more on Wednesday before settling in at price levels of around $16,000. At 15:30 UTC, the price of a single bitcoin was $16,330.88, unchanged in the last 24 hours. 

Ripple, which rose on news of a trial of its network between bank consortiums in Japan and South Korea, continued to rack up gains in its prices. It was trading at $0.69, up almost 50% in the last 24 hours. (See also: Ripple Is Back. Here's Why.) The cryptocurrency, which is also a payment network for banks, is up 197% within the last two days. Since the start of this year, it is up by a whopping 11,390%.

Bitcoin Gold, the latest cryptocurrency to emerge from bitcoin’s blockchain, was the other big mover. Its price increased by 8.52% in the last 24 hours to $301.58. Without any fundamental or technical updates to sustain its increase, bitcoin gold’s rally seems to be on weak legs.

The early-Christmas cheer of a rally seems to be fading for other altcoins. (See also: Bitcoin Takes Backseat As Altcoins Rally.) Six out of the top 10 most-traded cryptocurrencies were in the red as compared to their prices 24 hours ago, as of this writing. On an overall basis, the cryptocurrency market was worth $502.4 billion, down from yesterday’s $507.8 billion. 

A Role for Russia and Emerging Markets in Bitcoin Price      

According to a Buzzfeed report, bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are gaining momentum in Russia due to U.S. sanctions imposed on Russian banks. William Browder, the cofounder of an investment fund for Russia, is quoted as saying that cryptocurrencies are a “gift from God” for Russian banks to circumvent U.S. sanctions.

In a testimony to the U.S. Helsinki Commission, which monitors security and human rights across Europe, Browder said the rise of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies requires the “urgent attention of the U.S. and other Western governments” in relation to sanctions because they enable anonymous transfers.

The Russian government has mostly had a favorable stance towards bitcoin. (See also: How Russia Plans To Rival China In Bitcoin Mining.) While this could help Russia allegedly finance another U.S. election, it could also translate into more transaction volumes for bitcoin and drive up its price. Separately, a Bloomberg news item cites research stating that bitcoin trading thrives in emerging markets, which have also taken the lead in cracking down on the cryptocurrency.

“The strong interest from emerging-market countries could be reflective of relatively less stable local currencies or a byproduct of greater exposure to financial and economic crises that makes an alternative system like bitcoin relatively appealing,” says Spencer Bogart, head of research at Blockchain LLC. While that thesis may be valid in the future, it does not hold much water currently. Based on trading volume data, the Japanese yen, Korean won, and U.S. dollar – which are hardly indicative of unstable economies or currencies – were the most popular fiat currencies for bitcoin conversion.      

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