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NEW YORK: Bitcoin rose to a nearly three-year high on Friday, as investors continued to scoop the virtual currency on expectations it could well exceed its all-time peak of just under $20,000. Bitcoin surged to $18,766.79, the highest since December 2017, and was last up 4.9% at $18,696. It has gained 17% so far this week, the largest weekly gain since June 2019, climbing more than 160% so far this year.

"Today bitcoin has gotten to a place where institutional investors, banks, and family offices are legitimately pondering involvement as a defence against currency devaluation," said Alex Mashinsky, chief executive officer at Celsius Network, a crypto lending platform. The bitcoin market now boasts a functioning derivatives market and custody services by established financial institutions.

Other major cryptocurrencies, including ethereum and XRP, which often move in tandem with bitcoin, rose 7.2% to $505.2, and 3% to 31 US cents, respectively.