To some market analysts, quiet, expensive stock markets are being overlooked by worrisome speculative activity in products such as bitcoin.
The price of the digital currency has surged since the end of last year, topping $3,000 earlier this month from $968 at the end of December, according to CoinDesk. Bitcoin traded around $2,750 on Friday.
A rival has soared even more. Ethereum, also known as ether, leaped more than 4,000 percent from around $7 last December to above $300 this month. The overall market value for cryptocurrencies has risen from below $20 billion at the start of this year to above $110 billion, according to CoinMarketCap.
As the stock market becomes increasingly expensive for ordinary investors — Apple and Facebook shares cost around $150 each — trading has heated up in bitcoin and other digital currencies. Bitcoin can be bought in fractions as low as one hundredth of a millionth, or about less than one-tenth of a cent at current prices. That makes it an easy target for speculation.
During the dot-com euphoria of the late 1990s, ordinary investors piled into shares of young, unproven technology companies and the day-trading taxi driver symbolized the era. But this time ordinary investors are going elsewhere, says Ian Winer, head of equities at Wedbush.
"They're not playing the stock market anymore. They're playing all the markets that are less regulated, and one of them is the cryptocurrency market," Winer said.
"Rather than your average guy or gal buying tech stocks, they're buying bitcoin or ether," he said. "I see speculation all over the place. I just don't see it in the stock market."
Number of bitcoin addresses by individual bitcoin balances