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Will Bitcoin Futures Crash Markets Or Capture $10B In Trade?

By Investing.com (Jason Martin/Investing.com)CryptocurrencyNov 27, 2017 02:45AM ET
www.investing.com/analysis/will-bitcoin-futures-crash-markets-or-capture-10b-in-trade-200268251
Will Bitcoin Futures Crash Markets Or Capture $10B In Trade?
By Investing.com (Jason Martin/Investing.com)   |  Nov 27, 2017 02:45AM ET
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by Jason Martin

The CME Group (NASDAQ:CME) is set to tentatively launch Bitcoin futures trading this year amid hot debate,—not unlike the position and value of the digital currency itself—as investors brace for a surge in activity from institutional investors that could reach $10 billion.

At the end of October, CME Group chairman and chief executive Terry Duffy announced the plan to launch Bitcoin futures before the beginning of 2018 in what he explained would be a response to “increasing client interest in the evolving cryptocurrency markets”.

Even as it zoomed past the $9,000 benchmark this weekend (or perhaps because of its incredibly speedy trajectory), Bitcoin still has its detractors with the likes of JP Morgan’s CEO Jamie Dimon labeling the asset a “fraud” and some experts reflecting concern that its skyrocketing price has all the indications of a speculative bubble. The digital currency has skyrocketed around 906% in volatile trade this year, with three separate corrections of more than 25% all giving way to subsequent rallies. At current prices Bitcoin has a total market capitalization of around $162 billion.

BTCUSD Weekly
BTCUSD Weekly

CME's Duffy noted that his intention was not to control market volatility but to manage the risk by providing a way to short the cryptocurrency.

“I'm not trying to rein in the volatility of Bitcoin. But what I want to do is give it a place for other people to lay out that risk,” Duffy told CNBC in a mid-November interview.

“Today you cannot short Bitcoin. So there's only one way it can go. You either buy it or sell it to somebody else. So you create a two-sided market, I think it's always much more efficient,” he explained.

Short positions are generally considered as a way to balance market forces, enabling investors to bet on gains or declines. To understand shorts, an investor simply “borrows” the asset at a given price and sells it for cash. If the price declines, they repurchase said asset and return it, pocketing the difference. Shorts also allow trading firms to adopt market-neutral strategies, providing the opportunity to finish each trading day even.

Truth be told, Swiss structured products houses Vontobel AG (SIX:VONN) and Leonteq Securities AG actually beat CME to the punch with separate products launched on November 17 that allow investors to profit when Bitcoin tumbles.

Leonteq’s head of public solutions Manuel Durr told Bloomberg that the initial feedback was “extremely positive. Clients do very much appreciate the possibility of choosing between a long or a short investment in Bitcoin.”

Regardless, Duffy admitted that trading in their new Bitcoin futures will be halted for an hour in the event of a 20% move to the upside or downside—not unlike single-stock circuit breakers or the SEC’s own “limit-up limit-down” mechanism meant to control panic-selling or any type of excessive volatility—and added that investors will have to put up about 30% collateral as protection against losing the bet.

However, Interactive Brokers chairman and founder Thomas Peterffy recently argued that “margining such a product in a reasonable manner is impossible”.

“While the buyer (the long side) of a cryptocurrency futures contract or a call option could be required to put up 100% of the value to ensure safety, determining the margin requirement for the seller (the short seller) is impossible,” he argued in a full page ad in the November 15 edition of the Wall Street Journal which was a blow up of his letter to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.

“Unless the risk of clearing cryptocurrency is isolated and segregated from other products, a catastrophe in the cryptocurrency market that destabilizes a clearing organization will destabilize the real economy, a critical equity index and commodity markets cleared in the same clearing organization become infected,” he warned.

In a later interview with CNBC, Peterffy insisted that he was “not at all against trading Bitcoin” and that cryptocurrencies were a “great idea”.

“What I am objecting to is linking Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies by federal regulations to the real economy, which would happen if we were to clear Bitcoin along with other products in the same trading house,” he explained.

Peterffy blamed the huge price swings in Bitcoin for the issue and suggested that the limit on the futures would not allow short sellers to cover their investment. “It could bring down the entire economy,” he speculated.

But William Mallers, Jr. called these conclusions “overblown”. The co-founder of First American Discount Corporation, the third largest discount broker before it was sold in 2001 to Man Financial, argued that CME clearing privilege required a large amount of capital and operations that would be sufficient if a member’s capital level dropped below the threshold required for clearing.

“CME has done its homework on Bitcoin; it's well aware of Bitcoin's volatile price history and has the experience and controls in place to clear Bitcoin futures,” he argued in an opinion piece for CoinDesk.

Bitcoin gaining larger acceptance?

Whether a fan or a skeptic, the upcoming launch of CME’s Bitcoin futures is another step in the direction of acceptance, following close on the heels of rival CBOE Holdings (NASDAQ:CBOE) which, in August, announced plans to launch their own Bitcoin futures, also by the end of the year.

Key for market makers has been the goal of getting institutional investors involved in the digital assets. Towards that end, Coinbase recently announced its plans to launch a company called Coinbase Custody to help institutional investors securely store digital assets.

“When we speak with these institutions, they tell us that the number one thing preventing them from getting started is the existence of a digital asset custodian that they can trust to store client funds securely,” Coinbase CEO and co-founder Brian Armstrong wrote in the announcement.

“By some estimates there is $10 billion of institutional money waiting on the sidelines to invest in digital currency today,” Armstrong said.

So far, institutional interest in Bitcoin investments seems to be split roughly down the middle. In a survey of 317 institutional traders carried out by Triad Securities and DataTrek Research between November 6 and 13, about 31% admitted to having invested in Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies, with half having entered in just the last six months, suggesting that this year’s rally has sparked more than a little interest from the professional investment world. However, another 31% said they were opposed to taking their chances with the digital assets. Still, another 36% admitted that they’d considered the option without having dipped their feet in the water, suggesting a significant pool of institutional investors remain on the sidelines.

Institutional Survey on Bitcoin
Institutional Survey on Bitcoin

According to the survey, institutional investors had no majority opinion on the future of Bitcoin, with 39% insisting it was in a bubble and destined to crash while 27% expected continued gains at more gradual pace. 16% were betting on the value to double within the next six months while 17% admitted they either didn’t know or held no opinion.

Where Is Bitcoin Going?
Where Is Bitcoin Going?

The introduction of Bitcoin futures may also pave the way for the next expansion of investment vehicles in digital assets: the creation of Bitcoin exchange traded funds (ETF). Bitcoin ETFs could further broaden the range for institutional investors which are generally prohibited from buying unregulated securities.

The thinking is that the existence of Bitcoin futures would make securing approval for an ETF easier. The Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC) denied an application in March due to problems with surveillance. “The Commission believes that the significant markets for Bitcoin are unregulated,” the SEC said in its filing.

That all could change with CBOE and CME’s new projects as both firms are closely watched by regulators in Washington. Estimates put an SEC approval for ETFs based on the Bitcoin futures at between six to 12 months.

In the meantime, the heated debate over whether Bitcoin and alt coin rivals are a “valueless” asset already deep in bubble territory will likely continue to rage. The speculative buzz is that the influx of institutional investors via parallel investment opportunities such as the upcoming Bitcoin futures could serve to push the underlying asset to the “magic” $10,000 mark this year (a goal that looks closer to reality than anyone imagined even as late as last week) as the hype continues to draw in new investors. 906% gains so far this year.

Is it too late to participate or just the beginning? Time will tell.

Will Bitcoin Futures Crash Markets Or Capture $10B In Trade?
 

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Will Bitcoin Futures Crash Markets Or Capture $10B In Trade?

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Comments (6)
Allen Alain
Allen Alain Nov 29, 2017 12:22PM ET
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It's a Trojan horse strategy, and hopefully, it will fail. Letting fund managers and banks in the door to short and manipulate bitcoin is a big mistake, but i guess we have no choice. The main appeal of bitcoin was always that it had disassociated itself from the crooked card games run by the banks. The question now is, will bitcoin as a commodity be strong enough to fend off the attacks that are coming its way.
xx Gen
xGen Nov 29, 2017 12:22PM ET
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Bitcoin futures will be a cash settled instrument so it will have little affect on the underlying coin price.
Christian Yurianja
Christian Yurianja Nov 28, 2017 4:24AM ET
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whatever is it, my big mistake is buying ghs on c*x.io and not trading it. I just buy that and leave it. i dont realize that the ghs price is going down and down.
xx Gen
xGen Nov 28, 2017 4:24AM ET
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You should have bought a few months ago...
Dustin Manahan
Dustin Manahan Nov 27, 2017 1:23PM ET
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could go either way but when you look at the big picture. technology advances and we need a global currency that transfer $$$ much quicker. this is definitely the start of it all and so for that I believe it will go higher.
Dustin Manahan
Dustin Manahan Nov 27, 2017 1:23PM ET
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Also there's more accountability with this technology as well. This is just the beginning. Majority of people don't understand the potential of what this can do. It is life changing technology.
Sebastian Bayona
Sebastian Bayona Nov 27, 2017 1:17PM ET
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what do you guys think Will happen?
Emmy Aleckza
Emmy Aleckza Nov 27, 2017 1:14PM ET
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It is always interesting to see how a market starts.
Quinton Warren
Quinton Warren Nov 27, 2017 2:46AM ET
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It will raise the roof. There is a lot more everything in this market.
Knox Koz
Knox Koz Nov 27, 2017 2:46AM ET
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Everything! Kids born today will think of us as string and sand traders.
 
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