Motley Fool: 2017 a year to remember for investors

It's time to close the books on another trip around the sun, and before we get to New Year's resolutions, let's take a look back at the year that was.

After all, those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it, as Santayana warned us.

2017 was, if nothing else, the year of bitcoin. Oh, I should say ???blockchain', to capture the full gamut of both the technology and the myriad cryptocurrencies (and there are many hundreds), but that'd be burying the lead.

Bitcoin, which started the year around $US1,300 -- after doubling in 2016, went on to smash all sorts of records this year. At the time of writing, and let's face it, the price could have doubled or halved -- or both -- by the time you read this, bitcoin was fourteen times that price, sitting around $US18,000. And that's after losing 30% in the past couple of weeks.

It was the story we couldn't get enough of. The more articles that were written, the more we wanted to know even more. Everyone seemed to want in, with Uber drivers, hairdressers and even staid, grey-haired brokers bitten by the bitcoin bug.

Which, frankly, is the strongest sign we should be, if not worried, at least wary. The old saw is that once your cabbie starts giving stock tips, you should be worried about a coming market crash It's perhaps fitting that in the brave new world of bitcoin, the Uber driver has replaced the cabbie as the potential canary in the coal mine.

The other success story of 2017 was tech. Local cloud software player Aconex is being bought out by US tech giant Oracle. Big Un -- yes, that's really its name -- shares have gained around 1,500% (That's a gain of fifteen times your money) over the last 12 months. Big Un, as if you didn't know, provides "... disruptive video marketing services to small-medium enterprises", according to the company's website. And so excited is the market, that the company is now worth more than half a billion dollars. That's a lot of videos.

Other big tech winners include printed circuit board software company Altium, machine-learning enabler Appen, logistics software mob WiseTech and delivery-enabler GetSwift. Yes, 2017 was the year of tech. And while software continues to disrupt almost every industry you can think of, time will tell whether tech investors were visionary or overexcited in 2017. Given that list, I'd say a little of Column A and a little of Column B. We'll see.

And speaking of disruption, it's hard to overlook the stock market carnage wrought in 2017 by new industries and new ways of doing things.

Continued media disruption saw Network Ten go to the wall, taking a decent chunk of Messrs Murdoch and Gordon's money with it. And continued -- and increased -- pressure from overseas and online retailers (often both in the same package, such as Amazon's recent arrival) took its toll, with OrotonGroup putting itself into administration and Myer's shares fall another 50% over the year. Online isn't enough, though, with surf retailer SurfStitch also entering administration.

Oh, and in case you missed it, we had a new American President who has split opinion, continuing Brexit negotiations, weak wages growth and we still have record low interest rates.

It's been a busy year.

Foolish takeaway

We got this far without mentioning the market, though. Despite all of the above, the S&P / ASX 200 index of the largest Australian companies managed to increase in value by 6.8%, or 11.6% including dividends -- which is around the top end of the average annual range.

Which, after all, may be the most important lesson of all. Despite being filled with sound and fury, for all of the moving parts, fear and greed??? for all of the macro events and company-specific headlines??? it may just be that investing as if it's business as usual remains the best strategy.

Yes, I'm sure it is. Happy New Year.

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Scott Phillips is the Motley Fool's director of research. You can follow Scott on Twitter @TMFScottP. The Motley Fool's purpose is to educate, amuse and enrich investors. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691).

This story Motley Fool: 2017 a year to remember for investors first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.