Bitcoin Is Back Near Record Highs, and a Houston Pension Plan Dives In

Houston’s pension fund for its firefighters said Thursday it bought $25 million worth of bitcoin and ether for its defined-benefit plan’s portfolio, the latest move by an institutional investor into digital assets.

The move comes as bitcoin powered back to a record above $66,000 earlier this week. That followed Tuesday’s debut of the first U.S. bitcoin-focused exchange-traded fund, a closely watched development on Wall Street where finding a way to sell securities linked to bitcoin has been a priority for many firms.

The Houston Firefighters’ Relief and Retirement Fund, which has $5.5 billion in assets under management and more than 6,600 benefactors, said it purchased bitcoin and ether through bitcoin company NYDIG, a subsidiary of Stone Ridge, an alternative-asset manager.

The price of bitcoin recently traded around $63,000, according to CoinDesk.

Investing in cryptocurrencies has become more widely accepted at the same time some pension funds are trying to take on more risk to pad their coffers as they struggle to cover retiree benefits. Analysts are expecting returns at public-pension funds to fall over the next decade.

Companies and executives have also become more open to cryptocurrency offerings.

Jack Dorsey’s

payments company Square Inc. has purchased millions worth of bitcoin.

Twitter Inc.,

where Mr. Dorsey is also chief executive, has explored using the cryptocurrency for paying employees and vendors. El Salvador earlier this year passed a law making bitcoin legal tender, meaning the cryptocurrency could be used for things such as paying bank loans and buying goods.

A 401(k) provider, ForUsAll Inc., recently announced a deal with

Coinbase Global Inc.

to let workers invest a small portion of their retirement contributions in digital assets.

Cryptocurrencies are also prone to sharp price swings. Last month, bitcoin sank 17% in just a few minutes. The prices of digital assets can change substantially based on anything from influencers’ tweets to groups of traders changing sentiment.

A bitcoin mining facility in upstate New York is using electricity from a local hydroelectric plant powered by the Niagara River. The company is part of a group of miners attempting to make the industry more sustainable, both environmentally and financially. Illustration: Alex Kuzoian/WSJ

Write to Allison Prang at

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