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SEC Announces Second Forum on Crypto and Blockchain

SEC Announces Second Forum on Crypto and Blockchain

The United States’ Securities and Exchange Commission is set to launch its second public forum on cryptocurrency and blockchain on 31 May.

The forum held in conjunction with the SEC’s Strategic Hub for Innovation and Financial Technology (FinHub) has caused the industry to speculate if major changes in regulation are being considered by the regulatory body.

Until now the SEC has bordered on hindering any progress that the cryptocurrency industry’s major institutions and exchanges have fought for in attempting to bring digital currency into mainstream use. This includes delays on exchanges’ ETF approvals which are still waiting for green stamping and a lack of clear guidelines for the industry as a whole.

On a positive note, it’s thought that the fact the forum is open to the public and follows the SEC announcement of a “crypto tour” to engage with industry professionals, shows that the regulators are moving towards dealing with some of the growing regulatory issues which until now have been stalled.

One of the SEC’s concerns has been the risk of driving potentially innovative startups overseas in order to seek more relaxed regulations; a reason that the SEC, whilst it has been unclear on rulings and guidelines for the industry, has largely kept a hands-off approach. A change in attitude is clearly emerging over the past year following the SECs fairly intractable view regarding both security and utility tokens in the past. SEC Chairman Jay Clayton recently commented that a cryptocurrency can be sold as a security if it meets the definition of an investment contract after launch, and that the digital asset can later be sold without being defined as an investment.

The forum itself will include a live online broadcast and a panel of industry professionals and academics who are yet to be announced. Topics such as ICOs, crypto platforms, and blockchain will be the main focus of the event.


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Bitcoin ETF a “Virtual Certainty”, Says Financial Expert

Bitcoin ETF a

Talks about a Bitcoin exchange-traded fund (ETF) have been in the works a while now, and some experts in mainstream finance still believe it’s only a matter of time before one is granted. Ric Edelman, co-founder of Edelman Financial Services, insisted in an interview with CNBC that a Bitcoin ETF was “virtually certain”.

The derivative market for Bitcoin and altcoins are still a nascent development and while many mainstream financial players may have been watching from a distance, some have drawn closer to become pioneers from the traditional system to venture into cryptocurrency-related markets built on the topology of the traditional market.

Edelman’s comment that it was only a matter of time, adds yet another to many recent speculations that continue to draw the spotlight on Bitcoin in mainstream finance.

Bitcoin News reported earlier how mainstream financial players are considering hedging 1% of their portfolio funds to bitcoin – playing it safe with almost nothing to lose. Edelman also agreed to this strategy implying that the price volatility of the Bitcoin market can have useful impacts when favorable, and minimal when the price dips – after all, it’s just 1% of funds in the portfolio that will be affected.

He further reiterated the concerns of the regulatory watchdog, suggesting that the concerns of the SEC with regards to the crypto industry are legitimate and thoughtful. While affirming his confidence in the cryptocurrency markets and the efforts of key drivers in the industry towards overcoming these challenges, he, however, feels the time isn’t right for ordinary investors to dive into crypto investments, and that the ETF may highlight that hallmark. He said:

“It’s at that stage [Bitcoin ETF] that I will be much more comfortable recommending that ordinary investors participate.”

The Cryptocurrency industry is one of the most dynamic and innovative financial systems. However, regulators have thought it wise to tread carefully due to the overwhelming issues currently plaguing the industry, which the SEC has bored down to two basics: custody infrastructure and market oversight concerns – given that the nature of digital assets built on the blockchain is essentially decentralized.

Edelman further opines that serious players are in the industry, and are pulling in resources to ensure that they surmount the challenges highlighted by the SEC.

After multiple rejected Bitcoin ETF applications last year and a withdrawn application earlier this year due to the United States government shutdown, Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), SolidX, as well as VanEck have reapplied with the SEC keeping fingers crossed.

At this point, there’s no doubt that there’s high demand for Bitcoin ETF; from mainstream financial institutions to current crypto market participants; everyone is eagerly waiting to see the ETF approval lift the long bear-ridden cycle of the market.

Logically, the expectations are hinged on the premise of a similar occurrence in the December 2017 hype-drive, when Bitcoin futures introduced into the market by CBOE and CME Group ushered in a new class of investors and traders, thereby propelling the price-value of Bitcoin as well as alt markets.

ETF is one among others in the pipeline of financial derivatives that may fully launch crypto into mainstream finance. Recently, LedgerX introduced a new derivative called Binary Wager that would bet on Bitcoin’s next halving date. This occurrence happens once in every four years, and the new instrument can be classed under the long term derivate market. Either way, it would seem a lot of individuals have long term expectations for Bitcoin as well as the crypto market in general.


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Leaked SEC Comments Reveal ETF Optimism

Leaked SEC Comments Reveal ETF Optimism

The United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is in the cryptocurrency headlines again, and this time it’s another one of the regulator’s operatives that has the industry guessing.

It is exchange-traded funds once more becoming the point of focus not least because of the SEC’s announcement a few days ago that it was looking for a tool to improve cryptocurrency verification methods. Last November, SEC Commissioner Hester Peirce gave the industry a little hope regarding the acceptance of Bitcoin ETFs when she announced that she saw “significant intellectual capital” being invested by both institutional investors and exchanges towards the development of a Bitcoin ETF.

Now it’s the turn of another commissioner, Robert J Jackson Jr, whose comments to the Congressional Quarterly (CQ) were due to be published on 11 February 2019, but have since been leaked. Comments in which he agrees with his colleague’s sentiments have been shared across Twitter, in which he says that he also sees investment by both institutional investors and exchanges leading towards the development of a Bitcoin ETF. Although he doesn’t let slip which ETF applications have the best chance of acceptance, he also commented:

“A fund based on Bitcoin will eventually pass muster at the Securities and Exchange Commission despite that agency’s actions to deny all previous efforts.”

It is worth noting that Pierce’s comments in November of 2018 were her own, as she made clear in her podcast at the time; views not necessarily representative of the SEC as a whole. Commissioner Jackson’s comments to CQ were not necessarily intended for publication.

Clearly, the crypto space is hotting again up after the government shutdown and once more cryptocurrency business is ending up on someone’s desk at the SEC. The financial regulator’s new announcement that it was now considering a verification tool has raised some eyebrows in the industry, suggesting that there may be some more legislation on the way. The announcement was as follows:

“The SEC is seeking information for potential sources to support the goal of acquiring data for the most widely-used blockchain ledgers, including the universe of available information and transaction details.”


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Winklevoss Twins Reaffirm Commitment to Bitcoin ETF

Winklevoss Twins Reaffirms Commitment to Making Bitcoin ETF a Reality

The Winklevoss twins have renewed their commitment to bring about the first Bitcoin exchange-traded fund (ETF) in the US. This happened during an Ask Me Anything (AMA) event on Reddit yesterday, the first organized by them since 2015 – around the same time their Gemini crypto trading platform was launched.

In the past year, many investors were overwhelmed by the downtrend in the cryptocurrency markets and focused more on price measures to determine success. However, in the midst of misrepresentation of valued propositions, companies were making progress in their development timeline. One such company was Gemini.

According to Cameron, 2018 was a banner year, as the company was able to hit major milestones and considered it a successful growth period for the industry.

Though Bitcoin – the flagship cryptocurrency and the largest cryptocurrency by market capitalization – had suffered a hit and dropped by approximately 81.98% during 2018, the twins are still confident that the cryptocurrency is “most likely the winner in the long term… Bitcoin is certainly the OG crypto”.

During the AMA session, a Reddit user asked the twins about their previous bullish speculation price of USD 40,000 for Bitcoin in the last AMA, to which Tyler responded saying:

“Our thesis around Bitcoin’s upside remains unchanged. We believe Bitcoin is better at being gold than gold. If we’re right, then over time the market cap of Bitcoin will surpass the [approximate] 7 trillion-dollar market cap of gold.”

For the take-home, the twins did leave the attendees a hint of what cryptocurrency in the future should look like: “Success is a future where the internet looks dramatically different than it does today (i.e., decentralized and open) and your money does things that your current money cannot do (i.e., it works like your email).”

In another response, Cameron said: “I can see a future where everything (including fiat) is crypto (e.g., Gemini dollar).”

With respect to derivative markets like the ETF, the twins said they understand the regulator’s concerns as related to “increased marketplace surveillance”, and are currently taking steps to address those concerns through inclusive surveillance on their platform.

Moreover, they said that efforts are geared towards making cryptocurrency safe and clear of all stigma: “Marketplace Surveillance is commonplace in equities and derivatives markets — so we aren’t re-inventing the wheel here, just bringing best practices into crypto.” They further reassured that they were “committed as ever to making an ETF a reality”.

The Winklevoss twins are not the only ones motivated by crypto adoption. During the past weeks, institutional investment portals have been making appearances, with the likes of Coinfloor’s CoinFLEX, Overstock’s securities trading platform tZERO’s patent, Japan’s Bitcoin ETF, and imminent Bakkt all hitting the headlines.


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Swiss Stock Exchange to List World’s First Multi-Crypto Based ETP

Swiss stock exchange SIX, the fourth largest stock exchange in Europe with a market capitalization of $1.6 trillion, has followed up on its commitment made back in June of this year to open its doors to cryptocurrencies. With this announcement, it is about to list the world’s first crypto-based exchange-traded product (ETP).

Exchange-traded products (ETP) are a type of security that is derivatively priced and trades intra-day on a national securities exchange. ETPs are priced so the value is derived from other investment instruments, such as a commodity, a currency, a share price or an interest rate. Generally, ETPs are benchmarked to stocks, commodities or indices. They can also be actively managed funds. ETPs include exchange-traded funds (ETFs), exchange-traded vehicles (ETVs), exchange-traded notes (ETNs) and certificates. The ETP that is the most popular is the ETF,  securities that track an index, commodity or basket of assets.

SIX, backed by Swiss startup Amun AG, will track Bitcoin, Ripple, Ethereum. Bitcoin Cash and Litecoin with Bitcoin representing about a half of the ETP’s assets. The break down is XRP 25.4 at percent 16.7 percent in Ethereum, with Bitcoin Cash and Litecoin acquiring 5.2 and 3 percent of the market.

Amun’s co-founder and chief executive Hany Rashwan is certain that as an ETF, the security complies with the same rigorous requirements of traditional ETPs.

Amun AG’s ETP is a branch of the UK based fintech company Amun Technologies who hinted at a crypto ETP last month. Thomas Zeeb, head of securities and exchanges at SIX, sees blockchain-based digital exchanges becoming the status quo within a decade citing cost-effectiveness as a game changer within brokerage, banks, and insurance.

In the US, ETFs have hit a brick wall after the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) rejected at least eight proposals in August of this year. The hope is that at least one successful approval on ETF by the SEC would bring a tidal wave of institutional buyers to the market, picking up prices and moving Bitcoin in a long-awaited upward trajectory. For the hopefuls in the market, the track record so far isn’t good.

In August, XBT Provider AB, a subsidiary of CoinShares Holdings Ltd released an exchange-traded note (ETN) called Bitcoin Tracker One in Sweden. Ryan Radloff, CEO of CoinShares Holdings commented at the time:

“Everyone that’s investing in dollars can now get exposure to these products, whereas before now, they were only available in Euros or Swedish Krona. Given the current climate on the regulatory front in the U.S., this is a big win for Bitcoin.”

Experts are now suggesting that Bitcoin ETFs will be a “way bigger deal” than cash settlement Bitcoin futures contracts and a boon to the Bitcoin market moving forward. This move out of Switzerland’s “crypto valley” is seen as another step forward towards this end.


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SEC Delays Bitcoin ETF Despite 1,400 Public Comments in Favor

The VanEck SolidX Bitcoin exchange-traded fund (ETF) has already been stalled once in August 2018, and now the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) of the United States has delayed its decision again.

This was not surprising since some experts thought the SEC would likely delay until March 2019 which is the maximum time allowable under law, before probably rejecting it. What is somewhat surprising is that the SEC seemingly igored some 1,400 comments submitted to the SEC for the VanEck SolidX Bitcoin ETF, with virtually all of them in favor of it.

The director of VanEck, Gabor Gurbacs, says, “I am humbled and impressed by the public support of the VanEck-SolidX initiative to bring to market a well-constructed, liquid, physical, insured Bitcoin ETF. 1400+ comments, 99%+ in favor. The public has spoken! Bitcoin is compatible with the US and global capital markets.”

The reasons the Bitcoin and crypto community are extremely favorable towards the VanEck SolidX Bitcoin ETF is it would be backed by actual Bitcoins, meaning when someone buys a share of the ETF, the company in charge would buy actual Bitcoins for its reserve. This would cause the ETF to directly impact spot market demand and increase Bitcoin price, especially since it would be available to institutional investors on major stock trading platforms.

There have been many ETFs proposed to the SEC that are backed by cash instead of Bitcoin, which would make those a form of paper Bitcoins like the futures contracts currently available in Chicago. That would divert money from the spot market.

The SEC did acknowledge the favorable comments, however, issuing them a 21-day deadline to complete a lengthy 18-question writing assignment. The SEC questions center around how Bitcoin markets can be manipulated, are prone to insider trading, the risk generated by the Bitcoin futures markets, Bitcoin’s lack of a single price due to numerous global exchanges, the lack of surveillance, i.e. the lack of exchanges disclosing client data to the government, the relatively small size of the Gemini exchange which is closely linked with the ETF, only 100 shares of this ETF being available when it launches even though each share is 25 Bitcoins, and whether insurance backing the ETF’s reserves are sufficient.

Each question on the list has numerous statements that could be considered separate questions, so the SEC is essentially asking commenters to submit responses to about 100 questions within 21 days. The wording of the SEC statement suggests that comments which don’t answer all questions would be considered insufficient and probably irrelevant.


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Coinbase CEO: Crypto-Space Population Will Grow to 1 Billion in Next 5 Years

Brian Armstrong, crypto exchange giant Coinbase’s CEO, has suggested that the number of people in the cryptocurrency ecosystem will swell to 1 billion over the next five years.

In a recent interview, Armstrong sees the current number of 40 million making such a substantial growth due to the continued development of tokens by commercial enterprises and even charities. He suggested:

“It makes sense that any company out there who has a cap table should have their own token. Every open source project, every charity, potentially every fund or these new types of decentralized organizations [and] apps, they’re all going to have their own tokens.”

He added that his own company is likely to host hundreds of tokens within a period of years, and these could possibly swell into millions over time. He maintains that regulation remains key to such a groundswell of token adoption though, suggesting it is more likely that the majority of these tokens will more than luckily be classified as securities.

The exchange has made some major changes over past weeks. They introduced crypto trading pairs for the users in the United Kingdom through the Great Britain Pound (GBP) with a goal to be the trading platform of choice for UK crypto traders, one of the cryptocurrency’s largest world markets. Last month, the San Francisco Exchange introduced a digital gift card program aimed at revamping old business models, offering European clients other ways of accessing cash for crypto.

It’s also been rumored that Coinbase may apply for a Bitcoin ETF from the SEC, joining an already expanding waiting list, though, this hasn’t been confirmed yet by the exchange.

Last week Coinbase also revealed that it is considering the Irish Republic as its next push to expand local markets around the globe. Dublin has been cited as the exchange’s next target and to that end, they have begun an employment drive in the city taking on customer support, analysts, a compliance officer, and an office manager.

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Fast Money’s Brian Kelly Bullish as Ever On Bitcoin’s “Wild Ride”

Brian Kelly is back with his latest views on Bitcoin’s current fortunes and he is upbeat and bullish on where the market is heading.

His last words on the subject over a week back were made in the wake of investors holding their breath for the SEC’s ETF announcements which saw another dip for Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. He suggested then that the ETF waiting list at the SEC was driving market uncertainty. He rejected the notion that ETF would be approved by the SEC this year, suggesting that he wasn’t actually optimistic on them being approved in 2018, a view that has now become widely held.

In his latest appearance, he suggested that the “wild ride” Bitcoin is currently on needs to be seen in the context of a before and after scenario regarding CBoE-based Bitcoin futures. He said that Bitcoin frequently doesn’t respond well pre-expiry date, but then experiences a 10% jump following futures expiry.

He cited the expiry of April futures as a case in point which saw a Bitcoin leap of 20% of just six days. Asked if other cryptocurrencies would follow Bitcoin on its current “wild ride” of highs and lows, he revealed his thoughts that altcoins tend to follow its lead:

“They (altcoins) are still quite correlated (with Bitcoin). Over the last 60 days or so, Bitcoin has really been the leader — a lot of that had to do with the speculation about an ETF. But what you did see today is stuff like Ethereum almost 10% off yesterday’s lows, stuff like Stellar Lumens — still holding up quite well. So yes, if you get a 10 or 15 per cent run on Bitcoin on a short squeeze, it should bring everything else back up.”

There are some optimists on the other side of the Atlantic who see Bitcoin’s falling price in 2018 as a reflection of the market regulating itself. Phillip Nunn, CEO of investment firm Wealth Chain Capital, suggests than Bitcoin and larger coins will be the survivors after a market realignment: He said:

“The Bitcoin boom seems to be over for now, it’s currently trading at USD 6,472 (time of press) and I personally welcome it. The market is telling us something loud and clear, we do not need 1,000 different altcoins and the crash will most certainly get rid of these. A consolidation of quality projects within crypto will bring about the start of true Bitcoin dominance. I firmly believe the market will sustain itself, now is the time for investment, while prices fall.”

Ted Rogers, the chairman of vault operator Xapo, agrees, also suggesting that the current market offers an excellent opportunity to purchase the flagship digital currency.


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SEC Stalls VanEck SolidX Bitcoin ETF till at Least 30th September 2018

The highly-anticipated decision on the VanEck SolidX Bitcoin exchange-traded fund (ETF) has been stalled until at least 30 September 2018, according to an announcement from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on 7 August. The Bitcoin market dropped from USD 7,150 to less than USD 6,600 as of this writing and it continues to drop, as the Bitcoin community can now clearly see that a Bitcoin ETF will not be approved by the SEC anytime soon.

This particular Bitcoin ETF was the main reason behind the speculative rally in July that pushed Bitcoin’s price up to USD 8,500 from lows of less than USD 6,000. Now, it appears the market is on track to erase all of those gains. The rally initially halted when the SEC issued a 92-page rejection letter for the Winklevoss Bitcoin Trust ETF, which is much like the VanEck SolidX Bitcoin ETF in that it uses actual Bitcoins in its reserves instead of cash. In the lengthy rejection letter, the SEC detailed how the Bitcoin market was too volatile and unregulated to be the basis of an approved financial instrument.

The ultimate message is that no matter how well put together these Bitcoin ETFs are, they stand no chance of being approved under the current administration. Over 1,300 comments were submitted to the SEC regarding the VanEck SolidX Bitcoin ETF, mostly favorable, but they had no impact on the SEC’s decision to delay the ETF decision today. The SEC has the power to delay the decision all the way until March 2019 under their laws,  and the expert who made that calculation expects the SEC to extend the decision deadline to the maximum. All things being equal, in March 2019, the SEC would likely simply reject this ETF.

One of the SEC commissioners says the SEC decision to reject the Winklevoss Bitcoin Trust ETF was a major disservice to investors since it would force investors to trade outside of SEC-regulated markets.

Fortunately, the Commodities Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) is much more favorable towards Bitcoin, and has already allowed the launch of Bitcoin futures on CME and CBOE in late 2017. Also, the Bakkt exchange, backed by the Intercontinental Exchange (ICE), is proposing physical Bitcoin futures. These physical Bitcoin futures, projected to launch in November 2018, will be just as good for facilitating institutional investment as a Bitcoin ETF, if not better and more likely to be approved.


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