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Bitcoin breaks above $12,000 for the first time

  • Bitcoin tops $12,000 Tuesday evening, ET, (Wednesday morning Asia-time), and quickly adds several hundred dollars to reach a record high of $12,917. according to CoinDesk.
  • The digital currency now has a market value of about $213 billion, more than twice that of Goldman Sachs.
  • Bitcoin has surged more than 1,200 percent this year.

Bitcoin broke above the $12,000 mark Wednesday morning Asia-time, as the cryptocurrency continued its march higher.

The digital currency quickly leaped further. As of 2:13 p.m., ET, bitcoin traded about 10 percent higher near a record high of $12,917, according to industry site CoinDesk.

The bitcoin offshoot, bitcoin cash, traded slightly lower near $1,476 , while digital currency ethereum also traded slightly lower near $441, according to CoinMarketCap.

Bitcoin began 2017 at less than $1,000 per token, but it has been on an absolute tear in recent months: It crossed $5,000 in October and touched above $11,000 for the first time less than two months later, according to CoinDesk data.

Bitcoin 12-month performance

Source: CoinDesk.

With Wednesday morning's spike, bitcoin now has a total market value of about $213 billion — more than twice Goldman Sachs' market cap.

All of the digital asset's explosive growth has come against a backdrop of steady criticism from many financial luminaries.

For one, Stephen Roach, Yale University senior fellow and the former Asia chairman and chief economist at investment bank Morgan Stanley, told CNBC on Tuesday that he was deeply skeptical of investing in bitcoin.

"This is a toxic concept for investors," said Roach, who has been described by Yale as one of Wall Street's most influential economists. "This is a dangerous speculative bubble by any shadow or stretch of the imagination."

"I've never seen a chart of a security where the price really has a vertical pattern to it. And bitcoin is the most vertical of any pattern I've ever seen in my career," he added.

Yet many elements of the financial world have embraced the new crypto asset class: Major exchanges like the CME and Cboe have helped legitimize the currency's investment credentials by saying they plan to introduce futures contracts to their respective exchanges.

WATCH: Bitcoin is a 'dangerous speculative bubble,' Yale expert says

—CNBC's Dan Murphy and Evelyn Cheng contributed to this report.