CME is a giant in trading with products including futures on the S&P 500, oil and gold, and customer connections all around the world.
The world’s largest exchange owner reversed course today and said it plans to introduce bitcoin futures by the end of the year, only a month after dismissing such a plan. The largest cryptocurrency, which has surged more than sixfold this year, climbed to a record high after the announcement.
A functioning derivatives market could help professional traders and investors access the incredible volatility inherent in bitcoin without having to trade on unfamiliar venues that may risk anti-money laundering and know-your-customer rules. It will also allow traders to hedge their cash positions in the digital currency, which to date has been difficult to do.
“As the world’s largest regulated FX marketplace, CME Group is the natural home for this new vehicle that will provide investors with transparency, price discovery and risk transfer capabilities,” Terrence Duffy, CME’s chief executive officer, said in a statement today.
The creation of bitcoin futures is a key step in opening the asset to institutional investors, who currently have few opportunities, said Spencer Bogart, head of research at Blockchain Capital, a San Francisco-based venture capital firm. Bitcoin Investment Trust, currently one of the only avenues for investors seeking bitcoin-backed securities, is trading at a premium of more than 30 percent above net asset value. The trust, known as GBTC, is a “physical” fund, meaning it holds bitcoin itself.
“The amount of institutional money in bitcoin now is very little because there are very few vehicles,” Bogart said. “If there are bitcoin futures, there can be futures-based” exchange-traded funds.
The timing of the decision is a bit of a surprise. Just a month ago, CME President Bryan Durkin said on Bloomberg Television that “I really don’t see us going forward with a futures contract in the very near future.”