Bitcoin plunges below $24,000 and the crypto meltdown claims another casualty

Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies plunged Monday, and two of the world's biggest cryptocurrency platforms restricted activity as the market meltdown continued apace.

The Celsius Network, which has 1.7 million customers, said that "extreme market conditions" had forced it to temporarily halt all withdrawals, crypto swaps and transfers between accounts.

"We are taking this necessary action for the benefit of our entire community in order to stabilize liquidity and operations while we take steps to preserve and protect assets," the company said in a blog post.

The UK-registered company has about $3.7 billion in assets, according to its website. It pays interest on cryptocurrency deposits, and loans them out to make a return.

Binance, the world's biggest cryptocurrency exchange, suspended withdrawals on its bitcoin network for a few hours on Monday.

The company said it made the decision because some transactions had gotten "stuck" and were causing a backlog.

"We are still working to process the pending Bitcoin (BTC) network withdrawals, and this is estimated to be completed in the next couple of hours," the company said in a statement.

The cryptocurrency market has taken a hammering in recent months after its pandemic boom turned to bust. As the world's major central banks have hiked interest rates to tame spiraling inflation, traders have rushed to ditch riskier investments, including their volatile crypto assets.

Bitcoin, the world's most valuable cryptocurrency, has lost 15% in the last 24 hours — putting it about 66% below its all-time high in November last year, when it traded around $69,000, according to data from Coinbase. Bitcoin fell below $24,000 Monday, sending the crypto to its lowest level since December 2020.

Ether, the second-most-valuable digital coin, plunged 17%, and has now lost about 75% of its value since November.

So-called "stablecoins" — cryptocurrencies that are tied to the value of more traditional assets — have also taken a hit. Tether, a popular stablecoin, broke its peg to the US dollar in May, puncturing the view that it could serve as a hedge against volatility.