Many analysts believe the approval of a bitcoin ETF could lead to the biggest bull run in crypto history. That’s certainly possible. It’s also possible that a bitcoin ETF could lead to short-term gains and long-term losses. Or, the denial of a bitcoin ETF could cause markets to plummet.
The SEC will either approve, deny, or delay multiple upcoming decisions regarding a cryptocurrency exchange traded fund (over 9 different crypto ETFs from now until end of September). The successful approval of a bitcoin ETF could spark the biggest bull run in history. It would be the first time a US governmental institution approved bitcoin as an investment vehicle.
We have no idea if the SEC will approve or deny a bitcoin ETF. Just days ago, the SEC rejected the ETF proposed by the Winklevoss twins and their crypto exchange Gemini. Based on that rejection, it seems unlikely the SEC would suddenly reverse its decision.
Nevertheless, optimistic members of the crypto community are pointing towards late 2017 as evidence. In late 2017, bitcoin futures contracts were approved for trading. In September, bitcoin was priced at around $3500. By the end of the year, bitcoin had smashed past $10,000. On December 1, the day CME futures were officially launched, bitcoin topped at $20,000. Then we had the incredible news of NYSE's parent company ICE launching Bakkt cryptocurrency platform that is nothing short of amazing and revolutionary in its own right.
When bitcoin's latest exchange traded fund proposal got delayed, not even suddenly declined, it sunk to lows of $5,900 before settling into the $7,000 range and currently around $6,300.
Over the last few weeks, bitcoin did surge above $8,300 in anticipation of a bitcoin ETF approval. Optimistic investors are jumping back on board. They know that if a bitcoin ETF is approved, it would likely start an enormous bull run. However, given the CBOE VanEck SolidX delay until September 30, the bulls returned home and the bears came out of hibernating sinking the price back down toward year end lows.
That’s the background behind a bitcoin ETF. Now, let’s take a closer look at the importance of a bitcoin ETF and why people expect the price to rise over time.
What is an ETF?
An ETF is an exchange traded fund. It’s a financial product that tracks the performance of an index – like the S&P500 – or a commodity – like gold or oil – or a basket of assets. ETFs are traded like stocks, with prices fluctuating throughout the day as traders buy and sell their shares in an ETF.
The advantages of an ETF are obvious: you can take a position in an asset without actually purchasing that asset directly. You don’t have to buy a barrel of oil and store it in your backyard. Instead, you can gain exposure to an asset in a liquid and easy way.
A bitcoin ETF would offer similar advantages. It would allow ordinary investors to gain exposure to bitcoin. Investors wouldn’t need to worry about bitcoin storage or security. Instead, this responsibility is in the hands of the ETF provider.
It’s important to note that the ETF provider still holds bitcoin. By buying shares in the ETF, investors are getting a stake in the bitcoins owned by the fund.
How Will Crypto ETFs Work?
There are three broad types of crypto ETFs:
Bitcoin ETF: Bitcoin is the best-known cryptocurrency. If a crypto ETF is to be approved, then it seems likely bitcoin would be the first ETF.
Altcoin ETF: In the future (or even before a bitcoin ETF), we could see someone launch an altcoin ETF. Someone could launch an Ether (ETH) ETF, for example, or a Litecoin ETF.
A Crypto Basket: At least one of the ETFs submitted for approval to the SEC consists of a basket of crypto funds. Instead of owning exclusively bitcoin or Ether, this basket holds a basket of cryptocurrencies. The ETF being proposed, for example, holds the top 10 cryptocurrencies by market cap, balanced monthly relative to their weight. Bitwise is attempting to become the first company to push this proposal through.
Key Facts on a Bitcoin ETF
Regulatory Body: SEC (USA)
Earliest Date for a Decision: August 16, 2018 (however 9 pending til September 30th)
Extensions: The SEC can defer a decision for up to 90 days.
ETF Submitted By: CBOE Global Markets
Rules of the ETF: The ETF would hold 25 bitcoins per share. Users cannot purchase partial shares in the ETF. That means the minimum investment in the proposed bitcoin ETF would be about $185k, based on a bitcoin price of $8400. The bitcoin ETF would be geared towards institutional investors and high net worth individuals.
Insurance: The proposed bitcoin ETF includes provisions for $25 million in primary coverage with additional coverage of up to $100 million. Insurance extensions beyond these amounts cannot be made.
Support: The ETF is widely supported by the cryptocurrency community. The SEC has received 250+ comments on their SEC posting, with over 95% of these comments being in favor of the ETF. At least one SEC commissioner, Hester Peirce, is in favor of the bitcoin ETF, although the rest of the SEC does not currently echo that opinion.
Real Asset Value: The proposed ETF will hold actual bitcoin. If the fund attracts $100 billion of investments, then it will need to purchase $100 billion of actual bitcoin in order for the ETF to be fully backed.
The First Bitcoin ETF Was Proposed All the Way Back in 2013
The SEC has rejected a bitcoin ETF fifteen times in total. The latest rejection came this past week.
The first rejection, however, dates all the way back to 2013 when the Winklevoss twins sought to launch something called the Bitcoin Trust.
The Bitcoin Trust wasn’t specifically an ETF, but it looked and smelled enough like an ETF for the proposal to be denied.
Over the last five years, the SEC has rejected over a dozen other bitcoin ETFs. So why are people optimistic about the SEC’s stance changing? Why do people believe the SEC will approve a bitcoin ETF today?
Here’s how our friends at Total Crypto explained it:
“Most commentators believe that the latest ETF application will be approved due to how the ETF is structured. Average retail investors simply don’t have nearly $200k lying around to invest in Bitcoin. This means that the SEC’s main concern of protecting retail investors is satisfied.”
Cryptocurrency analysts and the CBOE believe the ETF meets all of the SEC’s ETF approval requirements. They also believe the crypto market has matured significantly over the last five years, quelling some of the SEC’s concerns of market manipulation and liquidity.
Would a Bitcoin ETF Raise Bitcoin Prices?
It’s widely assumed that a bitcoin ETF would raise bitcoin prices.
Obviously, there’s the fact that the SEC is approving a bitcoin ETF, and indirectly putting their stamp of approval on the crypto industry.
But there’s another advantage: institutional investors and high net worth individuals are interested in investing in cryptocurrency, but they don’t currently have a good way to do it. The launch of a bitcoin ETF would give these groups an ideal way to invest in bitcoin. They could participate in the rise and fall of bitcoin markets without actually owning any bitcoin and their investments would be fully insured.
It’s important to remember that institutional investors are not legally permitted to own cryptocurrency. Institutional investors must abide by regulations. They can only buy licensed and regulated investment products, for example. Even if a hedge fund wanted to buy bitcoin, it would not be legally permitted to own bitcoin directly. With a bitcoin ETF, there’s a huge amount of money that could pour into the market in a short period of time.
A bitcoin ETF would also drive the market significantly higher purely for purchasing reasons. If the ETF secured $1 billion in investments, then the fund would need to purchase $1 billion in bitcoin. Obviously, a trade of this magnitude can’t be made all at once, but it would still put constant upward pressure on the market.
Bitcoin and Gold: A Tale of Two ETFs
Many members of the crypto community have been pointing to gold as evidence of what can happen to an asset when an ETF launches. Since the first gold ETF was launched, the price of gold has risen significantly over time.
Gold and bitcoin might seem like two completely different assets, but there are a number of similarities between the two:
Both Gold and Bitcoin Are Scarce: There are only 21 million bitcoins in existence. 80% of these bitcoins have already been mined, and there are approximately 17.1 million bitcoins in circulation. Some bitcoins – some suggest as many as 4 million – have already been lost permanently (say, with destroyed private keys or unrecoverable addresses). Gold is similarly scarce. As pointed out by Total Crypto, the world’s total supply of gold would only fill 3.27 Olympic-sized swimming pools.
Both Gold and Bitcoin Are Universally Recognized: Gold has been a proven store of value for – quite literally – millennia. Bitcoin doesn’t have the same long history as gold, but it’s certainly recognized worldwide.
Both Gold and Bitcoin Increase in Value During Economic Crises: Gold is seen as a safe haven. Investors flock to gold when the economy is in turmoil. Bitcoin has shown similar properties. Bitcoin is a global currency that isn’t tied to any one nation’s economy. It could be the ultimate safe haven.
Both Gold and Bitcoin Can Operate Without the Global Banking System: You can buy a gold bar from someone without involving a bank. You can transfer bitcoin to someone without relying on a financial institution. Both gold and bitcoin can operate without the global banking system. The only “restriction” with bitcoin is that you do need electricity and the internet – an advantage gold has over bitcoin.
What Happened When the World’s First Gold ETF Launched?
The world’s first gold ETF launched in 2003. Within months, gold went on the longest bull run in its history. Gold went from a price of $331.60 per ounce in the early 2000s, rising to a high of $1,917.90 by 2011.
If you bought gold when the ETF launched and sold at the all time high, then you would have earned a profit of 478%.
It’s important to note that gold futures, like bitcoin futures, launched before a gold ETF. Gold futures launched all the way back in 1974. Investors had to wait nearly 30 years before a gold ETF was launched.
Bitcoin futures were launched in December 2017. It seems unlikely that investors will have to wait 30 years for a bitcoin ETF.
Total Crypto spotted another similarity between gold and bitcoin futures: gold prices rose in the leadup to the launch of gold futures, then fell afterward. Bitcoin futures worked in a similar way, rising to an all time high in December and then plummeting shortly thereafter.
Market Speed: Bitcoin Versus Gold
What about market speed? How do bitcoin markets compare to gold markets?
Bitcoin markets, as you might expect, move significantly faster than gold markets. As evidence, we can look at market cycles. Over the last 45 years, the gold market has seen seven prolonged bear markets that have led to a 30%+ fall in the price of gold. These negative correction periods have lasted as long as 6 years – like the prolonged downturn between 1988 and 1993. Overall, as pointed out by Total Crypto, the average bear market for gold is around 3 years, which is “an exceptionally long time.”
What about bitcoin?
With bitcoin, the longest bear market in history was 410 days – just over a year. The bear market from December 2017 until today – which feels like an eternity – has lasted under 250 days.
What does that mean? How will a faster market affect a bitcoin ETF? Here’s how Total Crypto explains it:
“This means that once the Bitcoin ETF is launched if the Bitcoin market follows a similar pattern to gold, we could see the Bitcoin price hitting an all-time high ten times as fast. That could mean a topping in price around 300 days after the Bitcoin ETF went live.”
What Do Analysts think About the Price of Bitcoin in 2018?
You don’t have to look far online to find crazy predictions about the future of bitcoin. You can find – quite literally – any price prediction from $0 to $1 million per BTC.
The truth is: bitcoin is a new asset exploring uncharted territory. Nobody knows where that asset is going to go. A bitcoin ETF could be denied, and bitcoin could sink below $1,000. Or, a bitcoin ETF could be approved, and the price of bitcoin could rise above $50,000. Neither of these options seems too unlikely before the end of 2018.
Similarly, some analysts believe that a crypto ETF will be approved on August 16, 2018. Others say it will be denied in September 2018. Some say the SEC will continue delaying the decision for months.
Here’s what we do know, however:
- Many prominent members of the bitcoin community believe bitcoin will reach a price of $10k to $50k in 2018
- We know that millionaires, high net worth individuals, hedge funds, and institutional investors are interested in cryptocurrencies; if these groups put even 1% of their net worth towards crypto, it would change the market overnight
- Most people worldwide have heard of bitcoin, but only a small percentage of those people actually own bitcoin
- Major Wall Street firms like BlackRock and Fidelity are exploring the launch of crypto-related products
- Many institutional investors are waiting for regulated crypto custody services – like the one offered by Coinbase – before dipping into crypto
Perhaps one of the most optimistic stances on the future of bitcoin comes from Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, who says,
“The world ultimately will have a single currency, the internet will have a single currency. I personally believe it will be bitcoin.”
Bitcoin Advantages Versus Gold
Today, bitcoin has a total market cap of around $130 billion. Gold, meanwhile, has a market value of over $7 trillion. Bitcoin still has a lot of room to grow before it catches gold.
Gold has a few thousand years of history backing it. Bitcoin, meanwhile, has climbed significantly in just 10 years since launch. If it follows the same trajectory over time (which seems unlikely), then it will catch gold within just a few years.
There’s reason to believe bitcoin will grow while gold sinks. Bitcoin has a number of advantages over gold, including:
Cannot Be Forged: Bitcoin cannot be forged or replicated; some gold bars have lead cores, tricking people into thinking it’s a solid gold bar when it’s really worth only a fraction of that amount.
Portable: Bitcoin is more portable. You can carry $100 million in bitcoin in a mobile phone. You can carry $100 million in bitcoin using a phrase memorized in your head. Try carrying $100 million in gold between two countries. If you can memorize 20 words, then you can carry your bitcoin anywhere in the world with absolutely nothing else required.
Accepted by Merchants: You can buy real products and services with bitcoin. Walk around your local mall with an ounce of gold. Try to spend it. Gold is difficult to spend and is unlikely to be accepted at merchants or retailers. Bitcoin, meanwhile, has a growing network of merchants worldwide.
Risk of Government Confiscation: Satoshi Nakamoto and other prominent bitcoiners frequently point to 1933 as the reason bitcoin is so valuable. In 1933, the US government made it illegal for private citizens to own gold. The US government, overnight, attempted the seize all gold owned by private US citizens. This scenario is impossible with bitcoin.
Bitcoin Can Be Divided Into Miniscule Units: Try chopping up a gold bar into a spendable amount of money. With bitcoin, you can divide it into tiny components, making it easy to spend. There are 100 million Satoshis in each bitcoin.
Ultimately, a bitcoin ETF would pave the way for the longest bull run in bitcoin history. The moment a bitcoin ETF is announced, bitcoin markets are going to surge – and they’re unlikely to stop for a long period of time.
Special thanks to Total Crypto for the visuals to help depict what will surely be one of the best things to happen in all of cryptocurrency world, the first-ever approved cryptocurrency ETF. Thanks for reading our bitcoin exchange traded fund guide!