Verdict: Out
It looks like this one is dead for good.

VanEck Vectors Bitcoin Strategy ETF

Filing Status: Filing made on 8/11/2017; Withdrawn on 9/27/2017; Refiled on 12/11/2017
Strategy: Will use bitcoin futures

VanEck was the first to propose using bitcoin futures as its underlying strategy instead of actual bitcoin. It turns out the proposal was a little ahead of its time. The SEC said that it wasn’t prepared to review a filing using a security that didn’t yet exist. VanEck agreed to withdraw its bitcoin ETF filing until futures contracts based on bitcoin began trading. That finally happened on December 10th, and VanEck refiled for its ETF a day later on December 11th.

VanEck was the first to file for an ETF using bitcoin futures, and seems determined to get a product to market. Whether its status as “first to file” puts it in front of the rest of the pack remains to be seen.

Verdict: Possible, maybe even likely
It’s funny that one of VanEck’s portfolio managers called bitcoin “a fad” just one day before it filed for a bitcoin ETF. I doubt that has any effect on anything. VanEck has perhaps the best chance of any provider of landing the first bitcoin ETF.

REX Bitcoin Strategy ETF and REX Short Bitcoin Strategy ETF

Filing Status: Filing made on 8/23/2017; Withdrawn on 10/5/2017; Refiled on 12/8/2017
Strategy: Will use bitcoin futures

The REX bitcoin ETF filing story is almost identical to that of VanEck. It withdrew its filings for the same reasons, and refiled once futures began trading. REX’s filing is notable because it’s the first company to file for a short bitcoin ETF.

Verdict: Possible (for the Bitcoin Strategy ETF); Possible, maybe even likely (for the Short Bitcoin Strategy ETF)
If the SEC approves a bitcoin ETF, it will likely approve a short bitcoin ETF either at the same time or shortly thereafter. VanEck and REX are probably ranked 1 and 1a for who gets their filing approved first at this point.

Evolve Bitcoin ETF

Filing Status: Filing made on 9/22/2017
Strategy: Will use bitcoin futures

Toronto-based Evolve Funds has filed for its own bitcoin ETF to be traded on the Toronto Stock Exchange in Canada. Since this product will need to go through Canadian regulators, it’s unclear if that gives Evolve an advantage in making it to market first. Bloomberg’s Eric Balchunas notes that Canadian regulators tend to be less strict, which could help this fund make it to market before any of its U.S. counterparts.

Verdict: Possible, maybe even likely
It might all depend on how quickly the Canadian regulators move to get this fund approved.

ProShares Bitcoin ETF and ProShares Short Bitcoin ETF

Filing Status: Filing made on 9/28/2017
Strategy: Will use bitcoin futures

ProShares is about the same size as VanEck. It’s unclear what role the timing of a filing has to do with when the SEC may review it, but ProShares has as good a chance as any to get its bitcoin ETF approved. Its only real disadvantage is that it filed later than the others.

Verdict: Possible
ProShares seems likely to get its bitcoin ETF at some point soon. It’s probably a little less than likely that it gets the first one.

First Trust Bitcoin Strategy ETF, First Trust Inverse Bitcoin Strategy ETF, First Trust Bitcoin Plus Strategy ETF, and First Trust Inverse Bitcoin Plus Strategy ETF

Filing Status: Filing made on 12/11/2017
Strategy: Will use bitcoin futures

First Trust has plans to launch a full suite of bitcoin ETFs. In addition to the standard long and short bitcoin futures-related funds, it also plans a pair of what it calls “Bitcoin Plus Strategy” products. These ETFs would be different in that they can invest in a combination of bitcoin futures, short-term Treasuries, instruments that provide exposure to movements in bitcoin’s value, which could include options, swaps or even other bitcoin ETFs.

Verdict: Unlikely
Too many filings ahead of it to be first, but at least First Trust is trying to be more unique in its offerings. The bitcoin plus ETFs would likely come after (probably) multiple traditional bitcoin ETFs, but could be an interesting choice for those looking for a slightly more diversified product.

Conclusion

A bitcoin ETF is coming. That much seems pretty likely at this point. Force me to make a choice, and I’d probably say that the VanEck ETF gets launched first, but I have relatively low confidence in saying that. I wouldn’t be surprised if any of about half the funds on this list get approved first. Ironically, the Winklevoss ETF has long been the first to try to come to market, and may ultimately see several other products get approved before it does.

My one great concern is how long after a bitcoin ETF gets approved do triple-leveraged bitcoin ETFs follow. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if we see one traded before the end of 2018.

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