Bitcoin slid after a tweet from Tesla’s billionaire chief executive Elon Musk apparently hinting at a potential split with the largest cryptocurrency.
The world's biggest cryptocurrency dropped as much as 5.4 per cent and was trading at about $36,980 a coin on Friday.
The decline dented this week’s stabilisation in the crypto sector after a rout in May.
Mr Musk has roiled Bitcoin and other digital tokens with a string of social media posts. Most notably, the tycoon last month reversed a decision to allow purchases of Tesla electric vehicles with Bitcoin, citing the environmental fallout of the energy required by the servers underpinning the cryptocurrency.
In his latest tweet, Mr Musk wrote “#Bitcoin” with a broken heart emoji and a reference to a lyric from the popular song In the End by Linkin Park.
Bitcoin is about $28,000 down from its mid-April record of almost $65,000. The biggest believers in crypto argue the token is consolidating before a run higher to new highs.
But Mr Musk’s spotlight on environmental risks - and the way his tweets drive swings in prices - have hurt the narrative that the virtual currency is bound to win more mainstream adoption over time.
After suspending Bitcoin payments to Tesla, Mr Musk later said that the company had not sold any of its holdings of the digital token, clarifying another of his tweets that raised questions about whether Tesla might have done so.
The repeated posts have fuelled speculation over just why the electric car pioneer is issuing crypto missives.
Tesla in February disclosed a $1.5 billion Bitcoin investment. In April, the firm’s earnings report showed it had sold 10 per cent of its Bitcoin holdings.
Despite May’s retreat, Bitcoin is up about 280 per cent over the past year, while the second-ranked cryptocurrency Ether is up 1,000 per cent.