Is a Bitcoin ETF Next?
April 10th 2013 at 7:10am by Tom Lydon
Bitcoins, a type of highly encrypted digital currency, are surging on a wave of speculation and demand for alternative currencies as central banks continue to print.
Could we soon see the launch of a Bitcoin ETF? It’s an interesting idea, but experts say don’t hold your breath.
Bitcoins, which trade hands online, have surged over 14% in the past week, reports Jeff Cox for CNBC. The digital currency has jumped to $250.
The Bitcoin is a type of decentralized digital currency based on a peer-to-peer network and can be exchanged through computers internationally without a financial intermediary. The system was first introduced by developer Satoshi Nakamoto in 2009.
Complex computers act as “miners” that would confirm transactions between two parties using Bitcoins, and they would receive Bitcoins as compensation. This helps serve to expand the supply of Bitcoins, which can not exceed 21 million, Minyanville reports.
“It got traction because it’s decentralized, it’s not subject to government meddling, it’s considered safe and there’s limited supply,” Alan Safahi, CEO of Zip Zap, said in the CNBC article. “So that drives value in kind of a commodity-type perception.”
As the digital currency gains momentum, some have floated the idea of a ETF backed by Bitcoins. Alternatively, Bitcoins could be a candidate for the exchange traded note structure, but the sponsoring bank would have to be willing to back the appreciation or depreciation of the Bitcoin currency. What started off as a joke, may not seem like a joke at all.
“With global BitCoin exposure north of $2 billion and global currencies on the verge of a valuation war one has to wonder how this new asset is going to make its way into our lives,” said Chris Hempstead, director of ETF execution services at WallachBeth Capital.
Nevertheless, Hempstead does not believe Bitcoins can be structured to fit the ETF vehicle. For instance, if a Bitcoin ETF were to act like another currency offering, it would require futures contracts.
“You’d need securities that are based in Bitcoins,” Hempstead said. “Since the Bitcoin is unregulated and no futures exist, an ETF is not possible today.”
Nevertheless, there are some fervent supporters who are trying to bring Bitcoins to Wall Street. For instance, Peter Vessenes, CEO of Coinlab, is trying to develop a safe way for U.S. and Canadian investors to do large block trades of Bitcoins and protect them from loss, reports Teri Buhl for Bitcoin Magazine. Vessenes has argued that whoever can figure out a way to store Bitcoins in large trading blocks can help clients feel safe and entice large money investors into the digital currency.
For more information on ETFs, visit our ETF 101 category.
Max Chen contributed to this article.
The opinions and forecasts expressed herein are solely those of Tom Lydon, and may not actually come to pass. Information on this site should not be used or construed as an offer to sell, a solicitation of an offer to buy, or a recommendation for any product.