Bitcoin futures exchange-traded funds (ETFs) have arrived in the U.S. with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) approving ProShares’ Bitcoin Strategy ETF (BITO), and a string of others is anticipated to comply with.
Should you purchase any of those?
As I’ve informed subscribers to my Crypto Capitalist Letter, the brief reply isn’t any.
Mark E. Jeftovic is the CEO of easyDNS and writer of The Crypto Capitalist Letter.
We have higher methods to achieve our publicity to bitcoin, and right here we’ll have a look at why a bitcoin futures ETF has drawbacks whilst in contrast to a spot ETF.
The distinction between a futures ETF and a spot ETF is that the latter holds the underlying asset in treasury. Think of a pile of gold in a vault someplace, towards which shares are issued and offered on the open market. Owning the shares correlates to claims on the property in custody. In spot ETFs you’ll be able to even redeem your shares for the property they characterize.
This can be attainable in cryptocurrency ETFs and closed-end funds. You can redeem your shares for the underlying bitcoin, or ethereum or regardless of the car is invested in.
Contrast to the previous, the futures ETFs. While some commodities futures contracts are for settlement in the commodity itself (city legends abound of flat-footed merchants waking up the morning of their contract’s settlement day to uncover a truck pulling into their driveway and dumping a couple of tons of sugar or espresso beans onto their entrance garden), the bitcoin futures ETFs are money settled.
That means it doesn’t matter what occurs to the worth or what you determine you need to do together with your positions in the longer term, there is no such thing as a choice for redemption of the underlying asset, you haven’t any declare on precise bitcoin.
You are solely a celebration to a contract to settle in money at some future date.
One of the principle points of interest to property like gold and bitcoin is the absence of counterparty threat. You could face custodial threat, which is a separate situation. But in phrases of counterparties, whenever you personal gold otherwise you personal bitcoin, the worth is the worth, and also you personal what you personal no matter how that impacts anyone else in the world.
Read extra: Why a Bitcoin Futures ETF Is Bad for Investors – Michael J. Casey
Below are 4 explanation why we’ll be avoiding these ETFs, adopted by what you can purchase as a substitute.
Reason #1: Counterparty threat
In the film “The Big Short,” you might bear in mind how the protagonists (who had lengthy predicted that the mortgage-backed securities would blow up markets) skilled a peculiar type of angst as their trades have been lastly vindicated, solely to discover their earnings in jeopardy as cascading failures blew up their counterparties. FrontPoint Partners, in explicit (the crew led by Steve Carell’s character), discovered themselves in the surreal place of their very own guardian financial institution changing into bancrupt from its publicity to derivatives FrontPoint had shorted closely.
Cash-settled futures ETFs are all derivatives, and thus all of them have counterparty threat.
Reason #2: Diluted publicity
Owing to SEC rules (client safety, and all that), the bitcoin futures ETFs can solely mimic publicity to bitcoin of up to 85% of the their web asset worth (NAV). The different 15% has to be “safer” devices like Treasury payments or bonds to present some type of cushion.
Reason #3: Decay
As the longer term contracts settlement date approaches, they’ve to be rolled over to the subsequent interval. That causes decay as this entails transaction prices on closing out and opening new positions.
On prime of that, there are the precise fund charges, which in the case of BITO is one other 0.95%. (The “contango” phenomenon refers to when costs for longer-dated contracts are costlier than shorter-dated ones.)
If you personal bitcoin straight, or perhaps a spot ETF, you don’t have decay. You’re simply lengthy bitcoin and the one factor you actually have to fear about is the precise value.
Reason #4: Divergence
Goldbugs have been complaining for many years how the paper futures markets don’t replicate the underlying worth of spot gold. We see this get conspicuously out of whack throughout excessive volatility episodes like #silversqueeze, earlier this yr – when bodily silver was buying and selling at premiums north of 30% on the futures value.
We can see the alternative occur, like when oil futures traded at a adverse worth for a day on April 20, 2020.
In that sense, buying and selling futures ETFs is actually extra about betting on the worth of the futures itself than on the underlying asset that the futures characterize. The spot value and the futures value are two various things that principally, type of, correlate. But not all the time. Those instances after they don’t are often fairly chaotic.
Read extra: Contango Conmigo: Why a Bitcoin Futures ETF Could Be a Bloody Ride – David Z. Morris
What to do as a substitute
Here in Canada, that is no downside. Bitcoin and ethereum ETFs have been round for awhile now and we’ve a number of choices to select from.
In the U.S., it may be trickier.
If that is the case, then right here’s two choices: the Bitwise 10 Crypto Index Fund (BITW) and the Grayscale Trust Bitcoin Fund (GBTC). (Grayscale is a unit of Digital Currency Group, which additionally owns CoinDesk.)
Grayscale has made no secret of its intention to convert to a spot ETF, and with these futures ETFs permitted, they’ve already refiled the paperwork to achieve this.
The Bitwise fund is usually allotted to the highest two cryptocurrencies by market cap, with 63% in bitcoin and 26% in ethereum. The remaining 10% is break up throughout different layer 1 cryptos like cardano, litecoin, polygon and cosmos.
Let the bitcoin futures ETFs improve the profile of the area and open up the asset class to beforehand inaccessible traders akin to pension funds. But for our functions, these devices are for different individuals.