But some analysts have pointed to an increase in corporate and institutional interest in bitcoin. Well-known investors such as Paul Tudor Jones and Stanley Druckenmiller have thrown their weight behind it, and crypto-focused hedge funds have outshone peers.

Global payments giant PayPal announced in October last year it would start accepting cryptocurrencies.

High returns enjoyed by specialist hedge funds earlier in 2020 had added a fresh shine to the asset.

The recent gains have far outpaced mainstream asset classes. Bitcoin rose 305 per cent last year, compared with the 16 per cent lift in Wall Street’s blue-chip S&P 500 stock index, and gold’s 25 per cent rally.

Marc Bernegger, a board member at digital asset manager and broker Crypto Finance, said he would not be surprised to see a “healthy” correction in bitcoin’s price in the short term. But he is positive over the longer term, due to “massive demand from professional and non-speculative oriented investors”.

Fundstrat analysts in late December said “the conditions remain in place for a continued rally”, citing institutional demand and a clearer approach to the sector from US regulators, as well as the possibility that the latest fiscal stimulus package agreed by Congress could fuel demand from retail investors.

Bitcoin’s rally has been helped by signs that the cryptocurrency is becoming more integrated into the financial system.

In October, PayPal said US customers would be given the option of holding bitcoin in their digital wallets. In December, crypto exchange Coinbase filed with regulators to go public.