Bitcoin is steadily gaining popularity, as reflected by its rising user base. Interestingly, the cryptocurrency’s market capitalization of $160.8 billion, per coinmarketcap.com, is nearly double the valuation of Goldman Sachs, Inc. GS and Morgan Stanley MS, at a respective $89.2 billion and $88.8 billion.

Investors should know that the surge in online retail transactions, especially in the holiday season, is driving bitcoin beyond the $9000 mark. This primarily reflects bitcoin’s growing acceptance in diverse businesses.

A Note on Bitcoin

Bitcoin is not a physical coin and no central authority creates the virtual currency. Instead, computers create bitcoin through mining. A special software is being used by the miners for solving critical mathematical problems, and thereby keeps the bitcoin network secure by verifying payments. In exchange, the miners receive a small amount of the digital currency as rewards.

Record Customers Open Bitcoin Accounts

Around Thanksgiving, the virtual currency market witnessed a record number of accounts for bitcoin traders. From Nov 22 to Nov 24, Coinbase — the United States’ largest bitcoin exchange — added roughly 100,000 new users willing to buy or sell the digital currency.

Per Coinbase data and Alistair Milne, the bitcoin exchange currently has as many as 13.1 million users, way higher than the 4.9 million users recorded last November. The digital currency also touched an all-time high of $9,682.10 on Nov 27.

It is to be noted that with an increasing number of bitcoin buyers and sellers, we expect more transactions that will need more mining. New businesses associated with mining have emerged and companies like NVIDIA Corporation NVDA offer digital mining equipment are in high demand. NVIDIA sports a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy). You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank stocks here.

Holiday Retail Transaction Drives Bitcoin

CNBC stated that retail transactions this holiday session supported the cryptocurrency’s year-to-date increase of more than 850%. CME Group Inc.’s CME plan to launch bitcoin futures also supported the rally. CME Group — the operator of the largest options and futures exchange in the world — announced plans to introduce bitcoin futures by the second week of December, media reports claim.

Apart from holiday retail-centric growth, many investors prefer bitcoin, given that no more than 21 million of the virtual currency can be mined. The finite resource base of the cryptocurrency could help investors increase their wealth over time.

Companies Going the Bitcoin Way

Many businesses across countries are opting for bitcoin as a mode of transaction, driving the popularity of the currency. Here we discuss four companies that allow their customers to pay in bitcoin in exchange for goods and services.

Headquartered in Bellevue, WA, Expedia, Inc. EXPE is among the leading online travel players in the world. Per media report, since June 2014, the travel agency has been offering its customers the option to pay in bitcoins for booking hotels.

We expect Expedia, carrying a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold), to witness year-over-year earnings growth of 4.1% in 2017.

DISH Network DISH, headquartered in Englewood, CO, operates the DISH Network direct broadcast satellite (DBS) subscription television service in the United States. In August 2014, the company received bitcoin payment from customers for the first time.

The company posted an average positive earnings surprise of 1.3% for the last four quarters. Presently, DISH carries a Zacks Rank #3.

Based in Seattle, WA, Starbucks SBUX is the leading roaster and retailer of specialty coffee in the world. The company is accepting payments in bitcoin.

We expect this Zacks #3 Ranked company to post year-over-year earnings growth of 12.1% in fiscal 2018.

Based in Midvale, UT, Overstock.com, Inc. OSTK is a leading online retail player. Since January 2014, the company has been accepting bitcoin for its wide range of products, including laptops and televisions.

Overstock.com carries a Zacks Rank #3.

Will You Make a Fortune on the Shift to Electric Cars?

Here’s another stock idea to consider. Much like petroleum 150 years ago, lithium power may soon shake the world, creating millionaires and reshaping geo-politics. Soon electric vehicles (EVs) may be cheaper than gas guzzlers. Some are already reaching 265 miles on a single charge.

With battery prices plummeting and charging stations set to multiply, one company stands out as the #1 stock to buy according to Zacks research.

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Expedia, Inc. (EXPE): Free Stock Analysis Report
 
Overstock.com, Inc. (OSTK): Free Stock Analysis Report
 
DISH Network Corporation (DISH): Free Stock Analysis Report
 
Morgan Stanley (MS): Free Stock Analysis Report
 
Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. (The) (GS): Free Stock Analysis Report
 
Starbucks Corporation (SBUX): Free Stock Analysis Report
 
NVIDIA Corporation (NVDA): Free Stock Analysis Report
 
CME Group Inc. (CME): Free Stock Analysis Report
 
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