Top Bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox, which facilitates more than 70 percent of trades of the currency, has halted trading for 12 hours following a gigantic decline in Bitcoin prices.

The price of a Bitcoin on Mt. Gox as of this report is $120, a dramatic drop from a high of $260 yesterday. On Wednesday, Bitcoin prices dropped from $260 to about $150 in a matter of a hours. The price rebounded briefly, but then dropped again this morning.

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This has led Mt. Gox to take action, and it has halted trading for 12 hours. Trading will resume at 7 p.m. Pacific time. Mt. Gox writes in a short update:

Market Cooldown for 12 hours

Orders will not be accepted for the moment as we need to upgrade our database to accommodate the trading volume. However, you may still cancel your pending and open orders. Trading will resume at 11.00 am JST. Our apologies for the inconvenience caused and thank you for your patience while we work to resolve this issue.

Just before halting trades, Mt. Gox also issued an update outlining how popular the service has been the past few days. It said that the number of trades executed in the past 24 hours had tripled and the number of new accounts opened each day now sits at 20,000.

The substantial increase in Bitcoin trading has put a spotlight on Mt. Gox because it controls so much of the day-to-day Bitcoin trades. The service has been subject to much criticism for not being prepared for the influx of new traders and for increasing lag time on trades. It also has faced distributed-denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks from people looking to destabilize the market and buy Bitcoins for cheap.

Check out the crazy fluctuation of Bitcoin prices over the past few days in the chart below.

mt gox prices

Bitcoin image via zcopley/Flickr

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