Will The SEC Approve A Bitcoin Futures ETF In 2021? Here Are The Implications
Rumors are flying. The SEC could approve a Bitcoin Futures ETF before the year ends. It seems like the US Security And Exchange Commission will not give the go-ahead to the mythical Bitcoin ETF just yet… or ever, but a new option has a few companies salivating. What does this mean? And why a Bitcoin Futures ETF before one for the asset itself? That’s what we’re here to explore.
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But first, why is the SEC hesitant about approving the Bitcoin ETF? Investopedia responds:
“The reason is that bitcoin, the largest cryptocurrency in the world by market capitalization, remains largely unregulated. Additionally, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is hesitant to allow an ETF focused on the new and largely untested cryptocurrency market to make its way to the public.”
If that’s true, what makes us think that a Bitcoin Futures ETF is not only possible, but imminent? Well, last month The SEC Chairman Gary Gensler told the Aspen Security Forum:
“I anticipate that there will be filings with regard to exchange-traded funds (ETFs) under the Investment Company Act (’40 Act). When combined with the other federal securities laws, the ’40 Act provides significant investor protections.
Given these important protections, I look forward to the staff’s review of such filings, particularly if those are limited to these CME-traded Bitcoin futures.”
— Eduardo Prospero (@edprospero23) September 23, 2021
Is A Bitcoin Futures ETF What US Investors Want?
Since Gary Gensler sent such a clear signal, the financial world responded in unison.
“At least four asset managers have filed for ETFs that invest in bitcoin futures after Securities and Exchange Commission chair Gary Gensler earlier this month indicated that he could approve such funds. But investors may not want them in lieu of physically backed bitcoin ETFs, analysts have said.”
According to Investopedia, “A bitcoin ETF mimics the price of the digital currency, allowing investors to buy into the ETF without trading bitcoin itself.” However, who’s interested in ETFs when bitcoin, the asset, is widely available? Some investors or groups simply can’t invest in bitcoin because their own internal rules won’t allow them to. They can’t purchase bitcoin through a brokerage account. No financial institution backs it, so no one protects them. And, of course, there’s the feared volatility.
Bloomberg explains how Bitcoin fixes this:
“A Bitcoin ETF could help get around those restrictions since the format is more widely accepted. “There are all sorts of custody and regulatory hurdles for big financial institutions to jump through,” said Ross Mayfield, investment strategy analyst at Robert W. Baird & Co. “If it were offered in an ETF, it clears a lot of that up for financial institutions.”
However, it appears that the SEC won’t approve one any time soon. Why would they approve a Bitcoin Futures ETF instead? Bloomberg continues:
“For the SEC’s purposes, Bitcoin futures also offer an additional level of security because they are governed by the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and require investors to put down cash on margin to trade, as a form of collateral.”
BTC price chart 09/27/2021 on Coinbase | Source: BTC/USD on TradingView.com
Experts And Important Players Disagree
While some companies can’t wait for the Bitcoin Futures ETF to be available, others are less enthusiastic. One of those is Michael Sonnenshein, CEO of Grayscale Investments. His company is one of the many that applied for a Bitcoin ETF and are still waiting for approval. In a recent CNBC interview, he said:
“It would be shortsighted of the SEC to allow a futures-based product into the market before a spot product,” Sonnenshein told CNBC’s “Squawk Box” on Tuesday. “They really should be allowing both products into the market at the same time and let investors choose which way they want.”
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Of course, he’s heavily invested in this outcome. His company’s Grayscale Bitcoin Trust is incredibly successful, but if they manage to turn it into an ETF, it might go parabolic. However, he’s not the only one that thinks that way. In the Bloomberg article, another expert elaborated on the Bitcoin Futures ETF ‘s limitations:
“With futures-based products, you introduced additional cost, more complexity, you have futures contracts that have to be rolled,” said the ETF store’s Geraci. “It’s just a sub-optimal option for investors.”
In any case, the Bitcoin Futures ETF approval is just speculation. Gary Gensler said he looked forward to reading his staff’s review of the fillings, which is not a guarantee by any stretch of the imagination.
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