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Why Inc. Shares Popped Today

By Steve Symington - Dec 15, 2017 at 6:58PM

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Plans to sell its retail segment and momentum surrounding blockchain names lifted shares of the e-commerce website.

What happened

Shares of Inc. (OSTK 4.64%) jumped 11.1% on Friday, continuing a multi-day ascent on momentum surrounding businesses related to the cryptocurrency market. Note that bitcoin, arguably the most well-known cryptocurrency, popped as much as 9% today, setting a new all-time high of almost $18,000.

Overstock has also skyrocketed in recent months -- including a more than 50% jump over the last five trading days -- thanks to excitement surrounding the involvement of its Medici Ventures subsidiary with advancing blockchain, the digital decentralized ledger underlying most cryptocurrencies.

Green and red stock market data on an LED display


So what

More specifically, earlier this week, Overstock CEO Patrick Byrne revealed that the company hopes to sell or restructure its e-commerce business within the next two to three months to focus on blockchain technology. In a related CNBC interview, Byrne further insisted he has an "ethical obligation" to shift the company's direction toward a new for-profit joint venture with economist Hernando de Soto, which aims to create a blockchain-based global property registry. In doing so, he says they could change the world for the roughly 5 billion people who are "unable to enter the modern global economy due to lack of visible and standardized property records."

But in the process, Overstock will sell its e-commerce business to either another large retailer, or a private equity investor. At least one multibillion-dollar investment fund has already expressed interest in a deal, according to CNBC.

Now what has embraced the cryptocurrency market in a way that few other reputable publicly traded companies have. And by effectively distancing itself from the e-commerce retail business for which it was formerly known, it will offer one of the few ways retail investors can take advantage of a possibly massive disruptive financial trend.

At the same time, given the meteoric rise of both cryptocurrency prices and Overstock's shares, investors should be comfortable with outsized volatility -- both up and down -- as the situation evolves in the months ahead.

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