Investment management giant BlackRock has made headlines with its application to list a Bitcoin exchange-traded fund (ETF) on the Nasdaq. However, this initial attempt was met with rejection by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), which cited concerns about the immaturity of the Bitcoin market and the potential for market manipulation. Undeterred, BlackRock, in collaboration with Nasdaq, has refiled the application, striving to address the SEC’s concerns and gain approval for the eagerly anticipated Bitcoin ETF.
BlackRock is a prominent global investment management corporation with a solid reputation in the financial industry. Founded in 1988, the firm oversees 10 trillions of dollars in assets, providing a wide range of investment and advisory services to institutional and individual clients worldwide.
Its involvement in the cryptocurrency space reflects the growing recognition of digital assets as a legitimate investment class. Those who are in the industry for a longer time remember the general backlash and rejection that Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies received a few years ago. This seems to be changing as the industry is maturing. The question is, is it mature enough to welcome BlackRock’s ETF or it still needs to wait a few years more?
An exchange-traded fund (ETF) is a type of investment fund that is traded on stock exchanges, similar to individual stocks. ETFs enable investors to gain exposure to a diverse portfolio of assets, such as stocks, bonds, or commodities, without having to directly own those assets. By purchasing shares in an ETF, investors can participate in the performance of the underlying assets, providing an opportunity for diversification and liquidity.
Previous ETF Applications:
BlackRock is not the first company to seek approval for a Bitcoin ETF. Several other firms, including VanEck, have previously submitted Spot ETF applications, only to face rejection from the SEC. This does not include applications of Futures ETFs.
VanEck, launched its own Bitcoin futures exchange-traded fund (ETF) in 2021. The company recently announced that it has received approval from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to introduce its bitcoin-linked ETF.
According to the filing, the SEC has granted VanEck permission to commence trading after October 23, 2021. This was a Saturday and the trading was kicking off on Monday, October 25.
This ETF is actively managed and primarily invests in standardized, cash-settled bitcoin futures contracts traded on regulated commodity exchanges like the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME).
It is important to mention, the fund does not directly invest in Bitcoin or other digital assets. By focusing on bitcoin futures contracts, VanEck aimed to achieve its investment objective within the framework of regulatory guidelines set by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC).
What’s the Difference Between Spot and Futures ETFs?
A Spot Bitcoin ETF and a Futures Bitcoin ETF differ in terms of the underlying assets they are based on and the associated risks involved.
A Spot Bitcoin ETF directly tracks the price of Bitcoin. It holds actual Bitcoins as the underlying asset, aiming to reflect the performance of the digital currency itself. This type of ETF is considered physically backed since it holds the real asset it represents.
On the other hand, a Futures Bitcoin ETF does not hold physical Bitcoins. Instead, it uses Bitcoin futures contracts as the underlying asset. Futures contracts are financial derivatives that allow investors to speculate on the future price of an asset without owning it. These contracts have an expiration date and settle based on the future price of Bitcoin, as determined by the futures market. As we mentioned above, VanEck’s ETF is a futures ETF therefore, it does not invests directly in Bitcoin.
BlackRock’s plan is different. They are targeting the Spot market and in case of a positive decision in the future, it will directly invest in the digital asset.
Significance for the Cryptocurrency Market:
The potential approval of a BlackRock Bitcoin ETF carries considerable significance for the cryptocurrency market. Currently, investing in Bitcoin and other digital currencies can be challenging and complex for traditional investors. Cryptocurrency exchanges may be unfamiliar or perceived as risky, leading to limited participation.
The introduction of a Bitcoin ETF would offer a regulated and familiar investment vehicle, facilitating access for institutional and retail investors alike. This increased accessibility has the potential to significantly expand the market and attract new capital.
The crypto industry consistently received criticism over the years due to its heavy tech jargon and exclusivity. This can change now and open the door for the less tech and crypto-saavy investors.
The Refiled Application and Its Potential Impact:
The refiled application by Nasdaq, seeks to address the SEC’s concerns and gain approval for the Bitcoin ETF. By providing specific details about the underlying market in the surveillance-sharing agreements with Coinbase, the application aims to demonstrate enhanced monitoring capabilities and mitigate the risk of market manipulation.
If approved, the BlackRock Bitcoin ETF could have a profound impact on the cryptocurrency market. Increased institutional involvement and access to a regulated investment vehicle could attract significant capital inflows, potentially leading to greater market stability and liquidity.
The influence of BlackRock’s ETF on Bitcoin (BTC) is making a significant impact, as observed by K33 Research. In the month of June, BTC exchange-traded products (ETPs) experienced the highest net monthly inflows since October 2021. This influx of capital indicates growing investor interest and confidence in Bitcoin.
Additionally, the basis on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) for BTC has surpassed 15%. This suggests a strong demand for futures contracts. The open interest (OI) on the CME is approaching all-time highs. It other words, the participation in the market is growing. Furthermore, the two-week volume on the CME has exceeded the turbulent trading days following the post-FTX incident in November.
These trends demonstrate the increasing influence of BlackRock’s ETF and its ability to shape market dynamics, attracting more attention and participation from investors in the Bitcoin space.
BlackRock’s pursuit of a Bitcoin ETF signifies the growing mainstream acceptance and interest in cryptocurrencies as a legitimate investment class. While the initial rejection by the SEC highlighted concerns about market maturity and manipulation risks, the refiled application aims to address these concerns head-on.
If approved, the BlackRock Bitcoin ETF could unlock new avenues for investors to participate in the cryptocurrency market, fostering greater liquidity, stability, and accessibility. As the cryptocurrency landscape continues to evolve, the decision on the BlackRock Bitcoin ETF will undoubtedly shape the industry’s trajectory in the coming years.
Opinions on BlackRock’s Bitcoin ETF are mixed. Some authors express concerns about its potential negative impact on the crypto community and long-term Bitcoin prices. The main criticism revolves around the essence of Bitcoin itself, which is to provide a decentralized asset that allows direct ownership without the involvement of third-party intermediaries. With the ETF, investors will always have BlackRock acting as an intermediary between them and their Bitcoin holdings.
Prior to the 2021 bull run, the question was not whether BlackRock would have its ETF approved, but rather whether authorities would ban cryptocurrencies altogether. At that time, the community eagerly awaited institutional capital to enter the crypto space. However, the situation has changed now. We can see a future for cryptocurrencies, and this future involves institutional players. Excluding traditional players from the mainstream growth of cryptocurrencies is not a viable option.
In my opinion, it may be true that this development will bring changes to the market. However, we cannot stop the evolution of the industry, and institutions entering the space is an inevitable part of that evolution. Instead of focusing on potential negative outcomes, we should accept this reality and prepare ourselves for the changes it will bring.
Please note that opinions expressed here are subjective, and different individuals may have varying perspectives on this matter.
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