This year has proved rocky for cryptocurrency traders following 2017's rally. Last year, a spike in demand for crypto coins drove the prices of digital assets like bitcoin, the world's largest cryptocurrency by market capitalization, to record highs. 

Out of the 167 estimated crypto hedge funds that launched last year, many have struggled this year, with at least nine forced to shut down operations altogether, according to a report from Bitcoin.com, citing data from Barclay Hedge. The hedge fund data specialist's newest index, the Cryptocurrency Traders Index, indicates that crypto funds fell 29.2% in March 2018, dragging year-to-date (YTD) losses to 43.1%. (See also: Basis: New Crypto Coin Attracts Top-Shelf Funding.)

Formerly known as The Barclay Group and founded in 1985, Barclay Hedge serves institutional investors as an independent index calculation agent, which has 25 proprietary indexes and maintains 148 hedge fund indexes for financial institutions in North America and Europe. 

Bubble or Correction?

Barclay Hedge's Cryptocurrency Traders Index is an equal-weighted index of the monthly returns of a representative universe of 19 constituent funds that trade bitcoin and other currencies, starting Jan. 1, 2018. The data firm's president and founder Sol Waksman indicated that January 2018 was chosen as a start date "to avoid survivorship bias, backdating and selection bias." 

Wrote Waksman: "The ability to trade Bitcoin futures on exchanges such as CME and Cboe, which are respected worldwide, provides a much-needed level of transparency, investor safety, and credibility to the price-discovery process and creates a level of institutional legitimacy that is crucial for growth in this sector. Within days of the launch of Bitcoin futures, Bitcoin rose to its all-time high of just under $20,000 on December 18 last year. Today’s prices are just over $8,000. Folks have their opinions, but no one really knows if it’s a bubble or a correction."

At a price of $8,917 per coin on Monday 1:19 p.m. UTC, bitcoin has fallen 55% from all-time highs late in 2017, yet reflects an over 10% gain in the recent one-week period. In February, the digital currency saw its price sink below $6,000 as investors feared heightened regulation from governments around the world seeking to crack down on the decentralized currency, including fraudulent activity in the space surrounding initial coin offerings (ICO).  (See also: Already More ICOs in 2018 Than All of 2017: $6.3B.)

Investing in cryptocurrencies and other Initial Coin Offerings (“ICOs”) is highly risky and speculative, and this article is not a recommendation by Investopedia or the writer to invest in cryptocurrencies or other ICOs. Since each individual's situation is unique, a qualified professional should always be consulted before making any financial decisions. Investopedia makes no representations or warranties as to the accuracy or timeliness of the information contained herein. As of the date this article was written, the author owns cryptocurrency.