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Crypto market awaits latest ETF application ruling

Institutional investors have been dipping their toes in crypto-waters this year. Last week, Coinbase’s CEO Brian Armstrong confirmed that their new venture Coinbase Custody has raised more than $1bn from 70 different institutional investors. Fidelity Investments, the 4th largest investment fund in the world is launching their own cryptocurrency trading platform. And Bakkt, ICE’s new cryptocurrency exchange, will be testing Bitcoin futures in July. Institutional involvement remains in its first steps as another new financial product may enter the scene tomorrow and provide a new route to crypto-exposure for institutions and even retail: a Bitcoin Exchange Traded Fund (ETF).

The much-anticipated product has been a constant topic of discussion during the 2018 bear market, offering a possible helping hand to the “drowning” market. Nonetheless, every single ETF application presented to the SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission) was delayed and ultimately rejected. Another U.S government agency, the CFTC, already flashed the green lights for Bitcoin futures in 2017 but are expressing their concerns about market manipulation. They requested data from top exchanges to ensure manipulation was not taking place for gains in the futures market.

A joint ETF proposal made in 2018 by CBOE, VanEck, and SolidX did not receive any feedback from the SEC as the proposing parties withdrew it in January 2019 during the U.S government shutdown. The CBOE already dealt with Bitcoin derivatives as they launched Bitcoin futures trading in late 2017. However, they decided to discontinue their trading in March 2019 to assess their “approach with respect to how they plan to continue to offer digital asset derivatives for trading”. A second ETF product was proposed this year by Bitwise Asset Management and NYSE Arca, although this decision was delayed until October 13 2019.

The decision to not address the VanEck ETF came as a surprise to many, as the SEC tends to delay decisions in “batches” as we saw last year. A decision on the VanEck ETF is due tomorrow (May 21 2019). A delay is still on the cards and a very probable outcome. However, a few indicators give us hope for approval:

– Hester M. Pierce and Glad L. Roisman, two SEC Commissioner, are openly pro-crypto. Hester “Crypto Mom” Pierce has previously raised her voice against the SEC’s refusal to approve

– The CBOE’s discontinuation of futures trading after the CFTC expressed their concerns about market manipulation shows cooperation with government agencies to offer suitable financial products, and this ETF might be one of them.

– Although a delay is likely, the timing and lack of clarity from the SEC about this ETF proposal, in particular, are intriguing.

If the ETF application is approved it is likely to be bullish for the market; a delay will probably not have a grand effect whereas a rejection will possibly be very bearish as the entire crypto-space has been awaiting it.

The “blockchain-specialist” lawyer Jake Chervinsky stated in an intricate Twitter thread that he’d be “shocked if the SEC approved the first ever bitcoin ETF after six years of denials without taking all the time allowed by law. Moving slowly makes the SEC appear thoughtful & thorough. VanEck’s final deadline is October 18. An early decision likely means denial.”

There are valid arguments for all three possible outcomes: delay, refusal, and approval. Nonetheless, anticipating an SEC decision and taking action on that basis is not a wise decision; therefore we will be awaiting their final say tomorrow.

Image licensed via Shutterstock

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