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Soaring bitcoin price means investors face growing risks

Volatility rules a market built on investor sentiment

TOKYO -- The Japanese retail investors behind the latest bitcoin boom may be in for a wilder ride than they expected, given the stiff challenges in determining virtual currencies' underlying value and the ease with which souring sentiment can sink prices.

The value of one bitcoin, the most widely traded cryptocurrency, has tripled since the start of the year. It recently surpassed gold's all-time high and topped $2,700. Peers are not far behind. Ethereum, the virtual currency with the second-highest total market value, has seen its value multiply by 28 since the start of the year to more than $200 per unit.

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