The Bitcoin difficulty has jumped to 422 billion, an all time high. This has come at a time of increased price for Bitcoin, with Bitcoin hovering at just over $1000 USD over the past week. The Bitcoin mining difficulty has more than quadrupled since the beginning of 2016, most likely with the advent of the more efficient Antminer S9 units. Mining is proving to be a risky investment in order to make a profit, due to the rapid increase in difficulty which slowly erodes mining profits over time.
The difficulty is showing no signs of slowing down, and is potentially going to increase further as more and more hardware comes online mining. It is likely that small drops will happen as less profitable hardware drops off the network, but this will be surpassed by the new hardware coming online.
Unless your power is cheap or free, you are unlikely to return your investment on most mining hardware, especially given the high failure rate of the Antminer S9 reported here and here. Miner warranty periods do not come anywhere near ROI time, and therefore it is a big risk buying mining hardware or any form of cloud mining contract, be it genuine or not. You are better off buying and holding coins or exchanging services for Bitcoin than mining unless you are doing it for a hobby or if you have free power.
It is likely that by next year, the difficulty will be over 700 billion, and it is likely that slowdown will occur by next year as moores law comes to an end as microchips struggle to get smaller, 14nm is already pushing it, the miners currently out are 16nm. We will update as more information becomes available, the rising price will probably compensate for the rise in difficulty, but as always be careful with mining investments!