By Paul R. La Monica, CNN Business
Cryptocurrency investors finally got what they’ve been clamoring for as the first bitcoin-linked, exchange-traded fund launched Tuesday.
The ProShares Bitcoin Strategy ETF began trading at $40 a share under the ticker symbol “BITO” and quickly rose about 3%. The ProShares fund is the first of what is expected to be several ETFs that track bitcoin futures to debut on Wall Street.
VanEck, Invesco, Valkyrie and Galaxy Digital are among several investment firms that have applied with the Securities and Exchange Commission to launch bitcoin ETFs.
Bitcoin has surged in value this month in anticipation of the fund’s debut and thanks to the fact that more big institutional investors are buying it. The cryptocurrency has rallied despite continued criticism from JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, who recently dubbed it “worthless.”
Prices topped $63,000 Tuesday morning, up from just below $44,000 at the end of September, a more than 40% surge.
Bitcoin is now within 3% of its all-time high of a little less than $65,000 earlier this year.
“The ETF approval is a watershed moment for the industry,” Bitcoin Foundation chairman Brock Pierce said in a statement to CNN Business. “This moment is long-awaited, as numerous entrepreneurs and firms have sought approval from regulators since as early as 2013.”
“Today begins an era where retail investors can invest directly into Bitcoin through the ETF, and serves as further validation of Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies across the country and on a global basis,” Pierce added.
Making bitcoin more available to the masses
Bitcoin bulls argue that having an ETF will make it easier for average investors to take part in the crypto market, without having to mine bitcoin themselves.
“We believe a multitude of investors have been eagerly awaiting the launch of a bitcoin-linked ETF after years of efforts to launch one,” ProShares CEO Michael Sapir said in a statement Monday.
“BITO will open up exposure to bitcoin to a large segment of investors who have a brokerage account and are comfortable buying stocks and ETFs, but do not desire to go through the hassle and learning curve of establishing another account with a cryptocurrency provider,” Sapir said.
It’s important to note that the ProShares ETF — as well as any others that may get SEC approval going forward — invests in bitcoin through futures contracts. That means that investors buying into the fund will not own any actual bitcoin.
But another asset manager, Grayscale, announced plans Tuesday to file to convert its Grayscale Bitcoin Trust, which was mainly geared towards high net worth accredited investors, into an ETF that would hold bitcoin at its spot (or market) price.
“We believe that if regulators are comfortable with ETFs that hold futures of a given asset, they should also be comfortable with ETFs that offer exposure to the spot price of that same asset,” Dave LaValle, global head of ETFs at Grayscale Investments said in a press release. “GBTC proves that there’s strong investor demand for physically-backed bitcoin investment vehicles.”
Still, having any type of bitcoin ETF available could attract more new cryptocurrency investors. Some may have been staying on the sidelines, even though there are now more opportunities to trade cryptocurrencies through firms such as Coinbase or Robinhood.
“The availability of a Bitcoin futures ETF is a big step for bitcoin awareness and regulation for the crypto industry,” Christine Brown, chief operating officer at Robinhood Crypto, said in an email to CNN Business. “After the SEC previously rejected several applications for these types of funds, the ETF going live on brokerages opens the door for a new group of investors.”
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