After bitcoin’s wild week, traders brace for futures launch

After bitcoin’s wild week, traders brace for futures launch
FILE PHOTO: A Bitcoin logo is displayed at the Bitcoin Center New York City in New York's financial district in NY, U.S. on July 28, 2015. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo
Updated 10 December 2017

After bitcoin’s wild week, traders brace for futures launch

After bitcoin’s wild week, traders brace for futures launch

NEW YORK: The newest way to bet on bitcoin arrived on Sunday when bitcoin futures started trading.
The first bitcoin future trades on Cboe Global Markets Inc’s Cboe Futures Exchange has given an extra kick to the cryptocurrency’s scorching run this year.
It has nearly doubled in price since the start of December, but recent days saw sharp moves in both directions, with bitcoin losing almost a fifth of its value on Friday after surging more than 40 percent in the previous 48 hours.
But while some market participants are excited about a regulated way to bet on or hedge against moves in bitcoin, others caution that risks remain for investors and possibly even the clearing organizations underpinning the trades.
The futures are cash-settled contracts based on the auction price of bitcoin in US dollars on the Gemini Exchange, owned and operated by virtual currency entrepreneurs Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss.
“The pretty sharp rise we have seen in bitcoin in just the last couple of weeks has probably been driven by optimism ahead of the futures launch,” said Randy Frederick, vice president of trading and derivatives for Charles Schwab in Austin.
Bitcoin fans appear excited about the prospect of an exchange-listed and regulated product and the ability to bet on its price swings without having to sign up for a digital wallet.
The futures are an alternative to a largely unregulated spot market underpinned by cryptocurrency exchanges that have been plagued by cybersecurity and fraud issues.
“You are going to open up the market to a whole lot of people who aren’t currently in bitcoin,” Frederick said.
The futures launch has so far received a mixed reception from big US banks and brokerages.
Interactive Brokers plans to offer its customers access to the first bitcoin futures when trading goes live, but bars clients from assuming short positions and has margin requirements of at least 50 percent.
Some of the big US banks including JPMorgan Chase and Citigroup will not immediately clear bitcoin trades for clients, the Financial Times reported on Friday.
Goldman Sachs Group Inc. on Thursday said it is planning to clear bitcoin futures for certain clients.
Bitcoin’s manic run-up this year has boosted volatility far in excess of other asset classes. The launch of futures may help dampen some of the sharp moves, analysts said.
“Hypothetically, volatility over the long run should drop after institutions get involved,” said Ophir Gottlieb, CEO of Los Angeles-based Capital Market Laboratories.
“But there may not be an immediate impact, say in the first month,” he said.
Analysts, however, warn that much of how the futures market will react is a mystery, given that bitcoin is unlike any other asset.
“This is completely unknown territory,” said Charles Schwab’s Frederick.
— Reuters