CME Bitcoin futures launch to increase volumes

Updated 2017-12-18 15:30:18 Global Times/Agencies

Contract to boost institutional demand due to multi-source final prices

Bitcoin investors expect futures volumes to perk up when CME Group Inc, the world's largest derivatives exchange operator, launches its own contract to wager on the cryptocurrency on Sunday.

The second U.S. Bitcoin futures launch is seen as another step toward big institutional investors warming up to a volatile asset that had until recently been accessible only via largely unregulated markets.

Like the futures contract launched last week by rival Cboe Global Markets, CME's will be cash-settled. But it will be priced off an index of data from several cryptocurrency exchanges, instead of just one.

"The CME contract is based on a broader array of exchanges," said Matt Osborne, chief investment officer of Altegris, a .5-billion alternative investments provider based in San Diego, California. "So there is a possibility that the CME contract may generate more interest and more volume."

Bitcoin has drawn attention due to its eye-popping price gains, but it is also notoriously volatile. Bitcoin exchanges and digital currency wallets meanwhile have struggled with issues like outages, denial-of-service (DoS) attacks and hacks.

Bitcoin hit another record high on Friday near ,000 on the Luxembourg-based BitStamp platform and has soared roughly 1,700 percent so far this year.

Chicago-based Cboe's Bitcoin futures surged nearly 20 percent in their debut last week and more than 4,000 contracts changed hands by the end of the 4:15 pm (U.S. time) settlement.

But the trading volume in the one-month contract, which expires in January, fell to just around 1,500 contracts the next day. By Friday, volume had stabilized at roughly more than 1,000 contracts.

In contrast, trading volume in the Cboe volatility index futures typically runs in the tens of thousands to more than 100,000 contracts, market participants said.

The decline in Bitcoin futures volume, however, was expected, analysts said, given concerns about the cryptocurrency's underlying volatility.

But discount brokerage TD Ameritrade said on Friday it will allow certain clients to trade Cboe Bitcoin futures from Monday, pointing to a potential pickup.

The futures contract price has declined more than 5 percent since its launch on December 10.

Some investors believe the CME Bitcoin futures could attract more institutional demand because the final settlement price is culled from multiple exchanges.

The Cboe futures contract is based on a closing auction price of Bitcoin from the Gemini exchange, which is owned and operated by virtual currency entrepreneurs and brothers Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss.

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