The first-ever bitcoin futures ETF rises 5% in trading debut as SEC’s Gensler flags volatility

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Bitcoin. Dado Ruvic/Reuters
  • The first-ever bitcoin futures ETF began trading Tuesday on the New York Stock Exchange.
  • The ProShares Bitcoin Strategy ETF tracks bitcoin futures rather than bitcoin itself.
  • The fund, which trades under the ticker BITO, rose 5%, while bitcoin itself rose 2%.

The first ever bitcoin-linked exchange-traded fund premiered on the New York Stock Exchange Tuesday – marking a long-awaited milestone for crypto enthusiasts.

The ProShares Bitcoin Strategy ETF, which invests in bitcoin futures contracts rather than the actual digital asset, began trading under the ticker symbol “BITO.” Shares rose 5% at $US41.90 ($AU56) at 9:37 a.m. in New York.

Because the US Securities and Exchange Commission didn’t intervene in ProShares’ new listing within the 75-day filing period that ended Monday, the ETF was effectively approved by the regulator.

BITO can be bought and sold like a stock, ProShares said Monday, and it doesn’t require buyers to hold an account at a cryptocurrency exchange or to have a crypto wallet.

The listing is the first of its kind and one that crypto investors have been “eagerly awaiting,” the company said. Others like it may soon receive SEC approval as well, CNBC reported, including ones from Valkyrie and Van Eck, with dozens more awaiting the green light.

The SEC has been resistant in approving a bitcoin ETF. But, earlier this year, SEC Chair Gary Gensler began signaling a lack of opposition to one based on futures, which are contracts that buy and sell an asset at a certain time and price. In supporting the new funds, Gensler cited a 1940 law that provides protections for mutual funds and ETFs.

Despite allowing the ETF to begin trading, Gensler told CNBC Tuesday that, “It’s still a highly speculative asset class, and listeners should understand that underneath this, it still has that same aspect of volatility and speculation.”

Regulators have struggled with how to approach digital assets, and some investors have shunned the asset class for lack of regulatory clarity – even as the crypto market has ballooned to $US2.6 ($AU4) trillion. Last week, crypto exchange Coinbase recommended creating a special regulator to oversee the crypto market.

With the new ETF trading, the price of bitcoin rose 2% to $$US62,725.18 ($AU84,547) at 9:34 a.m. in New York, continuing the digital asset’s rally this year.