Crypto Market Commentary
8 October 2019
Doc's Daily Commentary
The 10/2 ReadySetLive Update with Doc & Mav is listed below.
Mind Of Mav
Don’t Buy The ETF Hype (Again)
“We’re closer than we’ve ever been before to getting a bitcoin ETF approved,” Hougan, former CEO of Inside ETFs, said Monday on CNBC’s “ETF Edge.”
“Sometime before Monday, the SEC has to give its decision: yes or no. They have no more ways to postpone it at this point,” Hougan said. “We will hear clearly between now and Monday what they think, and then, depending on what we hear, we’ll go forward from there. But it should be a very exciting week.”
Following last summer’s hype about the imminent approval of Bitcoin ETFs – none of which actually happened – we’ve gone through periods with little-to-no news, followed by flurries of underwhelming developments.
It seems like history is repeating.
Speaking days before the SEC’s deadline for the Bitwise ETF application, Hougan said that the market had improved considerably over the past two years.
“The evolution of the bitcoin market over the last two years is from night to day,” he said Monday, adding that some of the SEC’s chief concerns about approving a bitcoin ETF — mainly custody and proper regulation — are starting to get resolved.
“Two years ago, there were no regulated, insured custodians in the bitcoin market. Today, … there are big names like Fidelity and CoinBase [with] hundreds of millions of dollars of insurance from firms like Lloyd’s of London,” he said. “Two years ago, there were no regulated crypto exchanges. Now, six of the 10 big crypto exchanges are regulated by the New York Department of State with market surveillance technologies in place. And, most importantly, two years ago, it was a one-sided, inefficient market. Today, we have $200-plus million in volume and regulated futures every day.”
“The opportunity that’s taking place in bitcoin, crypto and blockchain today is one of the most exciting wealth-generation opportunities in the world,” he said. “The problem is while big institutions have safe, secure ways to buy bitcoin today in private funds that are available only to the ultra-high-net-worth people, regular investors don’t have a safe way.”
A bitcoin ETF would change that layout entirely, added.
“What the bitcoin ETF would allow everyday investors to do is have safe, simple, secure access to the wealth generation taking place in bitcoin and crypto. It would let financial advisors give it to their clients easily instead of them going rogue,” Hougan said. “It’s just trying to solve that problem of simple, secure access to what is emerging as a very important technology and a very important asset class in the market.”
But it seems the rest of the market doesn’t share Hougan’s sunshine optimism. “I view the approval of the Bitwise ETF as a low probability event,” said Nicholas Pelecanos, an advisor at NEM Ventures.
“Neither the bitcoin spot market or derivative market are really liquid enough for any institutional investment firm to consider them,” said Christoph de Courson, co-founder and CEO of Olymp Capital. “Bitcoin also has extremely high volatility, which would make it very difficult to handle as part of an investment portfolio.”
Developing infrastructure and increased liquidity will slowly make the case for a Bitcoin ETF stronger.
“[T]here is certainly a place for these products,” Nick Cowan, Founder and Managing Director at the Gibraltar Stock Exchange, wrote in an email, “[but] I envision this process taking longer to iron out.”
Regardless of the parroting positions, the priority for the market is to show regulators that the market cannot be manipulated. The timing is unfortunate. A class action filed this week against Bitfinex and Tether in New York, accusing them of market manipulation, means that regulators are unlikely to approve an ETF until the case is settled.
“There’s too much negative news about scams out there,” added Martin Sabljak, Manager at blockchain incubator, Adel Ecosystem. “Every month we get some scam report about this and the main concern is if it’s safe enough for “grandma” to invest in.”
But, if the Tether case goes in Bitfinex’s favor, that could make the success of the next ETF application much more likely. The next deadline is the Wilshire Phoenix application on December 28.
Don’t let that get your hopes up unnecessarily, though.
The omens for the Bitwise ETF proposal do not look good and, depending on whether the case is settled before December, so too are those for the Wilshire Phoenix one.
Potential ETF providers, the likes of VanEck and Gemini, might hold back for the time being. A favorable outcome of the Bitfinex case might give them the green light to press forward with a host of new ETF applications as early as the new year.
As was the case the last time we discussed the ETF, the chicken and the egg argument is around the market itself — which needs more stability and institutional involvement before an ETF will be approved.
And by then? We’ll be far past needing it.
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