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This question already has an answer here:

Ive been looking around at the prices for bitcoins at various different exchanges and they all seem to have slightly (or wildly) different prices, why?

Thanks.

marked as duplicate by Greg Hewgill, Murch, John T, Salvador Dali, dchapes Mar 4 '14 at 17:33

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

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Economically speaking, this can only happen if the expected cost and risk in arbitrage outweigh the expected profit. Arbitrage, in this case, would be buying coins on a cheap site and selling on an expensive one. The risk comes from the high volitility and long confirmation time. In the hour or so it takes to transfer the coins from one site to the other, it's very possible that the price could have dropped enough that you end up losing money. The aforementioned risk is why no one has tried to take advantage of the price differences and (as a result) equalized the price.

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This behavior is not unique to Bitcoin, but you can see it more obviously because the volatility is very high.

The price is also different on Forex for say EUR/USD conversion depends on which market you are trading, but because volume is so high and volatility low we almost don't notice the price difference.

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This has been answered earlier, nevertheless, on different exchanges there are different traders who set the price, here I will use an altcoin to elaborate it more clearly. When a new coin is launched on exchange it has no value people come and deposit their coins into the exchange and they set a selling price if someone is interested to buy that coin for that price they do and this sets the price of a coin. When thousands of people start trading the same coin it become a community who then automatically starts selling their coin in the same price or +/- with the current price. No one alone(or exchange) sets the price. So different exchange have different community of traders who follow the trend of that particular exchange.

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If you are referring to the MtGox situation,

  • before the BTC withdrawal halt, there were problems and delays with fiat money withdrawals. Thus, you were not trading BTC for USD, but BTC for GoxUSD. People who tried to exit MtGox could do it mostly only using the BTC way, thus they were more likely to buy BTC using their fiat money, than to sell it, and because of that, the BTC price on MtGox was slightly higher than on the other exchanges
  • after the BTC withdrawal halt, it happened that people were more likely to escape using the fiat way. There was also a rumor, that you could get money out of gox if it was insolvent, if it was a fiat money, since BTC laws are unclear. This all meant, that people were much more likely to sell GoxBTC than buy, so the Bitcoin (or more like GoxCoin, since it was unusable out of Gox) price was plummetting down.
  • people who tried to escape their BTC from Gox used a bitcoinbuilder.com market, which allowed them to trade GoxBTC to RealBTC. The price was more or less the trust given to MtGox by those people.

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