The tech rally, or the retail sell-off – what has been the biggest talking point of the first half of 2017? Neither: 2017 has been about cryptocurrency. Yes, despite the FAANG craze and Inc (AMZN) putting the final nail in retail's coffin, this year all eyes have been on Bitcoin and Ethereum. Equity volatility hit record lows while daily fluctuations in the cryptocurrency market regularly exceeded 10 percent. 

Bitcoin's 156 percent rally from $997 at the beginning of 2017 to $2557 has been overshadowed by the gargantuan rise of Ethereum. Year-to-date the blockchain platform and programmer has risen 3500 percent, and whether it's a semiconductor stock that aides in the mining of cryptocurrency or a fund that tracks it, it has been a wild ride for these three investment vehicles.

Advanced Micro Devices

Shares in Advanced Micro Devices Inc (AMD) finished the first half of 2017 higher by 11 percent. The Sunnyvale, California-based semiconductor company has benefited from the rise in cryptocurrency and gamers mining. At one point, shares in AMD were higher by as much as 38 percent in 2017, but a sharp sell-off in the last week of June amidst competition concerns saw large gains of the year wiped out.

For those seeking volatility, AMD was the right choice in 2017. It's biggest daily gain was 10.4 percent on February 2, and it's biggest fall was May 2, where it shed more than 25 percent. (See also: AMD vs. Nvidia: Who Dominates GPUs?)

Relative performance of AMD, ARKW and Bitcoin Investment Trust v the S&P 500 (Source: Factset)


In 2015, ARKW became the first exchange-traded fund (ETF) to invest it Bitcoin, doing so by purchasing shares in the publicly traded Bitcoin Investment Trust (GBTC). "We're believers in Bitcoin, the currency, and Bitcoin, the technology platform. We also believe that current prices present an attractive entry point for our investors," Cathie Wood, ARK's Founder and Chief Investment Officer said at the time of the announcement. 

A fruitful 2016 continued into 2017, with the price of the ETF rising 41 percent year-to-date and outperforming the S&P 500 by 29.71 percent. ARKW has $55.7 million in assets under management and maintains an overall B rating, according to Factset data. Other major holdings of the fund are Athena Health, Amazon, and Tesla.

Bitcoin Investment Trust

What's better than investing in an ETF that invests in Bitcoin Investment Trust? Investing in the Trust itself. The trust trades on the OTC market and charges investors a 2 percent annual fee. 2017 has been a prosperous first six months for investors with the trust finishing up 177 percent. However, despite its rise, some investors have become wary as the fund, which supposedly tracks the price of Bitcoin has traded at a lofty premium all year: good for investors, not so for skeptics. "The share price of GBTC was last trading at double the value of its underlying Bitcoin holdings," Sumit Roy wrote in an article for 

"At 131%, GBTC's premium to its net asset value is astronomical by any measure, and close to the highest level it's ever been. For investors buying into the fund, such large premiums are a disaster waiting to happen."

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