Bitcoin nears US$60,000 as investors eye first US ETFs

Barring a last-minute reversal, the fund launch will be the culmination of a nearly decade-long campaign by the S$9 trillion ETF industry. PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK (BLOOMBERG, REUTERS) - Bitcoin hit a six-month high on Friday (Oct 15), approaching the record hit in April, as traders became increasingly confident the United States regulators would approve the launch of an exchange-traded fund (ETF) based on its futures contracts - a watershed moment for the crypto industry.

The world's biggest cryptocurrency rose nearly 4 per cent to as high as US$59,664, its highest since mid-April. Bitcoin has doubled in value this year and is near April's record high of US$64,895.

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is poised to allow its first US Bitcoin futures ETF, according to sources familiar with the matter.

The regulator is not likely to block the products from starting to trade next week, said the sources. Unlike Bitcoin ETF applications that the regulator has previously rejected, the proposals by ProShares and Invesco are based on futures contracts and were filed under mutual fund rules that SEC chairman Gary Gensler has said provide "significant investor protections".

A spokesman for the SEC declined to comment, as did an official at ProShares.

Barring a last-minute reversal, the fund launch will be the culmination of a nearly decade-long campaign by the US$6.7 trillion (S$9 trillion) ETF industry. Advocates have sought approval as a confirmation of mainstream acceptance of cryptocurrencies since twins Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, who are best known for their part in the history of Facebook , filed the first application for a Bitcoin ETF in 2013.

Over the years, there have been plans for funds that proposed to hold Bitcoin via a digital vault or that could use leverage to juice returns. Others sought to mitigate Bitcoin's famous volatility, a key point of contention for the SEC.

The SEC has in the past argued that the crypto space is plagued with investor hazards. The SEC had expressed concern that prices could be manipulated and liquidity might be insufficient, and that Bitcoin's drastic price swings may be too much for individual investors. Bitcoin's last three full-year returns were a 74 per cent loss followed by gains of 95 per cent and 305 per cent.

Additionally, the SEC has questioned whether funds would have the information necessary to adequately value cryptocurrencies or related products. There have also been questions about validating ownership of the coins held by funds and the threat from hackers.

Many crypto advocates were heartened when Mr Gensler took the helm at the agency, citing his previous interest in the crypto world. But the chairman has also in recent months referred to the space as the "Wild West" and has signalled that he wants more robust oversight of the markets.

The mood appeared to shift in August, when Mr Gensler signalled he would favour funds based on CME-traded Bitcoin futures filed under a 1940s law. He reiterated that stance late last month.

Four futures-backed Bitcoin ETFs could begin trading on US exchanges this month, with deadlines for applications from VanEck and Valkyrie also approaching. Meanwhile, dozens of cryptocurrency exchange-traded products have launched in Canada and across Europe.

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