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Bitcoin’s Ground Game More Important Than ETF

The Bitcoin mainstream is currently obsessed with the possibility of a Bitcoin exchange-traded fund (ETF). Most of the market moving headlines recently have been about Bitcoin ETFs being proposed and then rejected, and now stayed.

The excitement is that a Bitcoin ETF would allow Bitcoin, or Bitcoin derivatives, to be easily tradeable on all the major stock trading platforms where institutional investors transact trillions of US dollars, and how this could potentially lead to a Bitcoin rally. However, people obsessed with a Bitcoin ETF are ignoring its ground game such as Bitcoin ATMs, adoption, and crypto hedge funds, which are far more important and have a more direct impact on price than ETFs.

First off, many of the proposed Bitcoin ETFs, including the ones that have been stayed and are pending further review, are derivatives, i.e. paper Bitcoins. The Direxion and Proshares Bitcoin ETFs are settled for cash and only have cash backing them, meaning that even if trillions of dollars pour into these if approved, it wouldn’t have a direct impact on Bitcoin’s spot demand or price. The only ones that would really be important is one backed by actual Bitcoins, like the Winklevoss Bitcoin Trust ETF, which was rejected, and the VanEck SolidX Bitcoin ETF which has been stalled for the foreseeable future.

As far as institutional investors are concerned, the proliferation of crypto hedge funds across the globe is far more important than a Bitcoin ETF. Currently, there are at least 466 crypto hedge funds and these largely invest in Bitcoin. Further, they provide a global infrastructure for institutional investors to invest money in Bitcoin and crypto in a safe and regulated way. Crypto hedge funds represent far more options and avenues than any potential ETF, yet the market is barely reacting to the news that the number of crypto hedge funds is skyrocketing.

Perhaps even more important is the real ground game, especially the adoption of Bitcoin by everyday people. This can perhaps be tracked by the absolute explosion of Bitcoin ATMs across the world. There are now over 3,600 Bitcoin ATMs in the world with five new machines being added per day on average. To put this in perspective, at the end of 2013 there were fewer than five Bitcoin ATMs in the entire world. These have turned into critical infrastructure that allows for rapid buying and selling of Bitcoin for fiat, turning Bitcoin into a real currency that can be used in everyday life.

The fact that Bitcoin can now be easily used to pay rent, buy food, or buy anything else thanks to Bitcoin ATMs is laying the groundwork for rapid global adoption.

People have more control over their money with a decentralized currency that can’t be seized or frozen. Bitcoin is less cumbersome than physical cash and easier to conceal, reducing the risk of theft and allowing for instant international transactions with low fees. Further, Bitcoin is the most secure form of money in history due to cryptographic security that has yet to be hacked

Perhaps most importantly, Bitcoin’s decentralization means it can’t be printed by governments or manipulated to balance a budget, unlike fiat currencies which are abused by their respective governments. These are the reasons why Bitcoin got popular to begin with, and now Bitcoin’s infrastructure is rapidly growing and setting the stage for global crypto proliferation.

Essentially, a Bitcoin ETF that is based on actual Bitcoins would be good news and useful, but it is not the most important thing. Bitcoin’s ground game consisting of crypto hedge funds and Bitcoin ATMs is what will really drive Bitcoin’s adoption and price upwards long term.

 

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Bitcoin Advocate and Academic Gives ETFs the Thumbs Down

As previously reported by Bitcoin News, the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has just rejected at least eight proposals for Bitcoin Exchange-Traded Funds (ETFs), but there is one investor who doesn’t see this as a bad thing.

In a recently released video, Bitcoin advocate and tech entrepreneur Andreas Antonopoulos sees Bitcoin ETFs as both an inevitable and potentially destabilizing influence on the cryptocurrency market when they finally get approval.

Andreas M. Antonopoulos is a Greek-British bitcoin advocate. He is a host on the Let’s Talk Bitcoin podcast and a teaching fellow for the M.Sc. Digital Currencies at the University of Nicosia. His concerns are best illustrated by this comment made on the video.

“ETFs fundamentally violate the underlying principle of peer-to-peer money, where each user is not operating through a custodian, but has direct control of their money because they have direct control of their keys.”

Antonopoulos seemingly examines ETFs differently from the majority of market investors who see approval as a kickstart to a sluggish year which will bring in institutional investors and revitalise Bitcoin.  His view is that the market will be manipulated by major market makers as seen in commodity markets, and the investors will lose the right to be heard, arguing:

“We already saw that level of influence during the August 1st fork, user activated software forks, Bitcoin Cash, the scaling debate… Large custodial exchanges had a very strong voice in the ecosystem. They were able to decide if they were going to support or not on behalf of 10 million customers… an ETF will do that and it will do that on an even bigger scale”

Another issue that concerns Antonopoulos is privacy and transparency, suggesting that an ETF may react to regulatory pressure and refuse to adopt privacy measures and create another corporate Bitcoin market. This is a similar view to that held by former Wall Street exec Caitlin Long, who sees a corporate Bitcoin through Wall Street’s entrance into the crypto arena bringing the potential of bad practice to the industry.

Recently, Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin Tweeted out his critique of those focusing too much on ETF approval, pointing out the accessibility of purchasing cryptocurrency should be focused on to promote ”actual adoption.”

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Brian Kelly: One Last Hurdle for Bitcoin Rally

CNBC Fast Money’s bitcoin bull Brian Kelly sees a Bitcoin rally as just one hurdle away: ETF approval. Although, he does not see this as likely until August 2019.

The Big Hurdle

Getting the first Bitcoin ETF approved by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has become a competition between those fighting for the trophy, as well as for Kelly, the biggest hurdle in seeing a real Bitcoin bull market emerge. He fears that any delay, rejection, or request to withdraw could postpone any substantial price appreciation.

Kelly noted that last years SEC rejection of the Winklevoss brothers ETF actually became a boost for altcoins. Right now, he recognized, the market is flat for altcoins like Ethereum and Ripple. But, this could be because all the new money is flowing into Bitcoin. While part of this may be accounted for by people spending fiat on Bitcoin to then purchase altcoins, Kelly estimates that it is more likely to be coming from investors counting on an ETF approval.

If the ETF applications are rejected or delayed, he predicts that the alt market could experience a capital influx as some investors leave Bitcoin. Kelly pointed to the year’s overall growth in the cryptocurrency market, which saw the movements of Bitcoin and altcoins tightly correlated, with the former outperforming throughout August.

Be cautious to buy Bitcoin today if you are counting on an imminent ETF approval, he warned investors. As a short-term trader, Kelly said he had just sold off some of his Bitcoin holdings.

ETF: For Retail Traders or Not?

As the hosts queried whether an ETF would benefit retail investors, Kelly noted that VanEck’s USD 200,000 share price was likely to weed out any potential for them, and rather serve institutional players.

The SEC gave prospective providers 31 points needed to be met to receive approval, with one of these being protections for retail investors. It would seem that Vaneck responded to this by raising the costs to such an extent that they are cut out of the market.

One issue that the Fast Money hosts did not think had been addressed yet remains the problem of providing a sufficient custodial service, with Kelly citing this as a significant reason why approval is not imminent.

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SEC Rejects Multiple Bitcoin ETFs

The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has rejected at least eight proposals for Bitcoin exchange-traded funds (ETFs). The decision was made yesterday on 22 August.

Two rejections were from applications filed by ProShares that would have tracked Bitcoin futures contracts — a decision made a day earlier from a 23 August deadline. However, the SEC also rejected six other proposals, decisions for which could have been postponed: one from GraniteShares and five leveraged and inverse ETFs filed by Direxion.

Brian Kelly’s lack of optimism on a 2018 decision on ETF appears to have been reflected in price action over the past few hours, with Bitcoin shedding around USD 300 or over 4% of its price after the news. It has held strong support at USD 6,400, however, and continues to trade just above that.

After two Winklevoss rejections by the SEC, the ProShares submission had been hopeful yo create the long-awaited spark the crypto community has been waiting for.

But Hunter Horsley‏, CEO of Bitwise Asset Management, felt that deadlines may not be the kickstart that some in the industry suggest it will be:

“An SEC filing hitting a deadline is a procedural reality — it doesn’t change the odds of it getting approved, it just draws our attention to it… Just because we hit the deadline doesn’t necessarily give any indication that the SEC has changed its tune.”

Horsley’s Bitwise filed in June with the SEC for their own exchange-traded fund of 10 cryptocurrencies. He, like Brian Kelly, doesn’t think that the SEC will necessarily meet their deadlines in the ever-increasing queue. He argues:

“I think [the SEC is] being cautious. That’s their job and that’s what we would hope they would do, suggesting that the SEC has “demonstrated a great understanding of the [digital coin] space.”

They appear to have been proven wrong with this latest string of rejections, however, as at least seven of them were decided on before their deadlines

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.

With Gemini’s failure to become the first-ever cryptocurrency ETF on a regulated exchange came other subsequent rejections by the SEC: five more applications failing in the same week as the second Winklevoss. This latest string of rejections seem to be a cementing of the SEC’s hardline stance.

That said, SEC Commissioner Hester M Pierce, responsible for the second Winklevoss rejection, has thrown a bone to the industry which investors see as positive, commenting:

“More institutional participation would ameliorate many of the Commission’s concerns with the bitcoin market that underlie its disapproval order.”

Although that comment comes with an element of Catch 22, or possibly chicken or egg.

 

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SEC Poised to Decide on Bitcoin Futures ETF

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) of the United States has a deadline of 23 August 2018 to make a decision on two Proshares exchange-traded funds (ETFs) based on Bitcoin futures. One of them is a long position, meaning traders make money on the price of Bitcoin futures going up, and the other is a short position meaning traders make money on the price of Bitcoin futures going down.

The SEC has received many different types of Bitcoin ETF proposals and has so far stalled decisions before ultimately rejecting them. With the Proshares Bitcoin futures ETFs, the SEC has already stalled the maximum period allowed and will have to reject or approve it. The market should react positively if these ETFs are approved but it is unlikely to happen. The SEC has recently rejected the Winklevoss Bitcoin Trust ETF and delayed the decision on the VanEck SolidX Bitcoin ETF.

The Winklevoss Bitcoin Trust ETF and the VanEck SolidX Bitcoin ETF would have used actual Bitcoins, providing a way for people to purchase actual Bitcoins via an ETF. An ETF is listed on all the major stock trading platforms, so it would have opened the door for a tremendous amount of institutional investment into Bitcoin.

However, these Proshares Bitcoin ETFs are based on Bitcoin futures contracts which are traded on the Chicago futures markets. The futures trading contracts which have been approved by the Commodities Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) are backed by cash reserves and are settled for cash and, therefore, don’t have a direct impact on Bitcoin’s spot price. Further, Bitcoin futures contracts at this point are essentially paper Bitcoins, which is bad for the market overall since paper versions of commodities tend to suppress a commodities’ price. This can be seen in the gold market, where paper gold on COMEX is suppressing gold price.

Recently, a Bitcoin exchange-traded note (ETN) was approved for use by United States investors, based on actual Bitcoins, which makes it far better than the Proshares Bitcoin futures ETFs. Also, Bakkt is projecting a launch of physical Bitcoin futures by November 2018. Essentially, a Bitcoin ETF is not the only game in town; institutional investors will have the tools they need to invest in Bitcoin with the ETN and the physical Bitcoin futures.

 

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Cboe President Still Hopeful for First ETF Approval

The race to receive the coveted spot as the first Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) approved Bitcoin exchange-traded fund (ETF) continues and Cboe Global Markets Inc believes it still has a chance to make it.

Speaking to Bloomberg, Cboe’s exchange operator’s president and chief operating officer Chris Concannon said that it was a matter of working through the issues that concern the SEC before an ETF can be approved. He believes Cboe can achieve this but recognizes the growth of a strong Bitcoin futures market may mean that a futures-based ETF may come first, rather than an exchange for the cryptocurrencies themselves.

What Concannon sees potentially problematic here, however, is that a futures-based ETF has never been done before, and it could be a struggle to find enough liquidity. Futures trading volumes have remained low compared with commodities contracts such as gold, although an ETF would certainly prompt a significant increase in trades. The SEC is hesitant to approve such an ETF until futures trading can provide sufficient liquidity, however.

Concannon said that he had learned there have been more articles than volume, describing the amount of media attention the market gets compared to its size as ”shocking”. He noted that the entire cryptocurrency market was only a fifth that of multinational technology company Apple.

Cboe was the first company to usher Bitcoin into mainstream finance during its bullish run in December last year, offering futures contracts for the cryptocurrency. Many interpreted this as a signal Wall Street was turning in favor of Bitcoin, with an ETF finally becoming foreseeable.

The SEC cited the potential for market manipulation in the nearly entirely unregulated market as the primary reason to deny approval, as was the case in the Winklevoss brothers rejection. The SEC said that they would require a surveillance sharing agreement with a large Bitcoin exchange to ensure no manipulation is taking place, of which the Winklevoss Bitcoin Trust could not provide at the time.

 

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Malta Makes Huge ICO Funding Gains as Crypto Investment Funds Rise in 2018

New crypto funds are continuing to open despite a falling market and apprehension over ETF decisions, according to the latest analysis from Crypto Fund Research.

With things seeming to go well for crypto funds, collectively amassing $7.1 billion, they still lag behind traditional hedge funds, with most of the institutional investment managers playing a wait and see scenario. Cryptocurrencies’ next big hurdle, now that digital currencies are very much out there in the financial sector, is to start encouraging institutional investment on a larger scale.

It is thought that 2018 will see more crypto hedge funds arrive on the scene, which is on target to reach 165, nine more than in 2017. Statistics show that until July 31 of this year, there were 96 new crypto hedge funds and venture capital funds with more than half of those existing today being launched in the past 18 months.

There are currently 466 crypto funds across the globe with San Francisco, New York, Singapore and London topping the list for 2018 launches. In addition, Austin, Dallas, Hong Kong, Philadelphia, San Diego, Tokyo, and Zug are not far behind in terms of multiple launches of crypto hedge funds and capital ventures since January this year.

In terms of ICOs, launches have also accelerated this year to date, also seemingly undeterred by a bear market. However, 50 percent of all projects in 2018 have failed to raise more than £100,000. This low figure was put down to investors concerns about scams

Service tokens accounted for 42 percent of new ICOs, but utility tokens attracted the most funding at $22 million per project, followed by crypto tokens at an average of $7 million.

Another hurdle for new ICOs remains that problem of getting projects listed on exchanges, which has become an increasingly lengthy process. The number of projects that managed to get listed in the shortest possible time fell by 22 percent this year, due in part to tougher exchange requirements and new regulatory demands.

In overall terms, 2018 has been 10 times better than the previous year for ICOs, according to a market status report published by ETF on August 8, with more money being raised and more ICOs being launched in the second quarter of the year.

A notable fact coming out of the report is that small nations are winning in terms of making the largest gains, with Malta, Gibraltar, and Singapore coming out on top. Malta raised an average of £119 million, almost twice the funds raised by second on the list Gibraltar. Other statistics show that although it is clearly European nations that are making the largest gains in terms of overall fundraising, North America is still the crypto giant at $4.98 billion with 116 projects, a huge 65 percent of all the funding raised. Europe came in second at $1.12 billion, with Asia coming in third with $751 million.

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Pantera CEO: Investors Overreacting to SEC Delay on ETF

Crypto hedge fund Pantera Capital’s CEO Dan Morehead has said that investors have been pushed into a state of panic by the SEC’s delayed decision on Bitcoin exchange-traded funds (ETFs).

Morehead said on Wednesday’s CNBC “Fast Money” that ETF wasn’t imminent, a view shared a week prior on the same show by Brian Kelly, who saw next year as the most likely date for approval rather than September. He commented:

“The main thing to remember is that Bitcoin is a very early-stage venture, but has real-time price feed — and that’s a unique thing. People get excited about the price and overreact… I still think it will be quite a long time until an ETF is approved. The last asset class to be approved for ETF certification was copper, and copper has been on earth for 10,000 years.”

The SEC has delayed another decision on approval of a Bitcoin ETF after several attempts by investors over the years to push one through. On the announcement of a delayed decision, Bitcoin lost further ground last week.

Morehead suggests that the new Bakkt project should be enough to hearten investors rather than to sell Bitcoin on the basis of a delayed decision. He explained:

“The ETF rejection is the same story we’ve had for five years. The SEC has been very cautious with an ETF… That’s huge news. That is going to be a very profound impact over the next five or 10 years for the markets, and, to my mind, that’s what people should be focused on.”

CNBC’s Fast Money regular Brian Kelly was the first to predict that an ETF was unlikely to happen this year, and is in total agreement with Morehead, arguing that a sell Bitcoin position is not the right one to be taking. He explained:

“It [Bitcoin] has had a tremendous run off of USD 5,800, and that was all really because people thought there was going to be a bitcoin ETF. The SEC came out and postponed that decision. A little spoiler alert, on September 30, SEC will likely postpone it again, because the market is not ready for it and the SEC hasn’t had the answers to their questions yet.”

 

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Vitalik Buterin: Focus on Crypto Adoption, Not ETFs

Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin Tweeted out his critique of those focusing too much on ETF approval, pointing out the accessibility of purchasing cryptocurrency should be focused on to promote ”actual adoption”.’

I think there’s too much emphasis on BTC/ETH/whatever ETFs, and not enough emphasis on making it easier for people to buy $5 to $100 in cryptocurrency via cards at corner stores. The former is better for pumping price, but the latter is much better for actual adoption.

— Vitalik Non-giver of Ether (@VitalikButerin) July 29, 2018

His Tweet cites specifically ”making it easier for people to buy USD 5 to USD 100 in cryptocurrency via cards at corner stores” as the more important task for the cryptocurrency community while saying ETFs would be better merely for pumping the price rather than increased adoption.

The statement received mixed reactions from the crypto-Twittersphere.

One user disagreed with the necessity of using cryptocurrencies for everyday transactions, saying that fiat currencies work perfectly well for that. Another argued that being paid in cryptocurrency would be a more effective way of spurring adoption than being able to purchase small quantities easily with fiat.

Largely, the sentiment online appeared at odds with Buterin’s statement, either championing the benefits of ETF approval or critiquing the use of cryptocurrency payments for everyday purchases and arguing this should not be its primary use.

Circle co-founder and CEO Jeremy Allaire said recently that a significant catalyst for the industry and cryptocurrency adoption has been the development of hundreds of thousands of blockchain-backed dApps, frequently created by companies that operate with their own tokenized ecosystem.

Blockchain testing has certainly helped push forward the industry in a positive light, with institutions such as NASA and Citi pursuing their own initiatives.

Will we see ETF approval?

The US Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) recent clarification that neither Bitcoin nor Ethereum were securities has been welcomed by the majority of cryptocurrency users, who believe this is a positive indication that an ETF may be approved.

However, the SEC cited several issues that meant it could not approve the Winklevoss twins’ ETF proposal for the time being. These problems primarily include the threat of price manipulation of the market, hence an inability to protect investors, as well as the issue that most Bitcoin trading is done overseas with no regulatory oversight.

If the market becomes regulated to the SEC’s standards, it has said it would consider approving a Bitcoin ETF, although it seems very unlikely that standardized regulations could be adopted globally by governments. As well as this, most Bitcoin exchanges would not give the SEC all of their private information as requested, particularly the most prominent exchanges which are not based in the US.

 

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SEC Commissioner Says Bitcoin ETF Rejection Hurts Investors, Stifles Innovation

There has been a large amount of enthusiasm in recent months across the crypto space that the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) would approve a Bitcoin exchange traded fund (ETF), which would effectively put Bitcoin on the stock market, and make it easy for institutional investors to buy Bitcoin on all the major stock trading platforms.

However, these hopes were shot down when the SEC rejected the Winklevoss Bitcoin Trust ETF in a 92-page document detailing how the underlying Bitcoin market was not mature or safe enough to approve any Bitcoin ETF. This is combined with the revelation that the VanEck SolidX Bitcoin ETF, which is similar to the Winklevoss Bitcoin Trust, can have its decision delayed until 2019. One of the SEC commissioners who voted on the ETF, Hester Peirce, has issued a dissenting opinion that the SEC made the wrong choice, overstepped its bounds, and didn’t do its job.

SEC commissioner Peirce says, “The Commission’s action today deprives investors of this choice. I reject the role of gatekeeper of innovation—a role very different from (and, indeed, inconsistent with) our mission of protecting investors, fostering capital formation, and facilitating fair, orderly, and efficient markets. Accordingly, I dissent.”

Additionally, Peirce argues that approving a Bitcoin ETF would have created a channel for transparent and regulated investment into Bitcoin, which would protect investors. Not approving the ETF would ultimately keep investments outside of properly regulated channels and harm Bitcoin investors. This is quite the opposite of SEC’s mission to protect investors.

The SEC rejected the Winklevoss Bitcoin Trust based on the dynamics of the underlying Bitcoin market, not on the merits of the ETF itself. Peirce says that the ETF would have been able to follow all of the SEC rules and regulations to ensure lack of market manipulation and that it wasn’t appropriate for the SEC to reject the ETF based on the underlying market.

Winklevoss Bitcoin Trust had a surveillance agreement in place with the Gemini exchange, which Peirce thinks is sufficient because the ETF’s price would have been based on Gemini’s Bitcoin spot price. The SEC demanded surveillance agreements with larger Bitcoin exchanges outside of the United States, which is impractical and not necessary. According to Peirce, the SEC analyzed the Bitcoin market with methods used to analyze other commodity markets that are fundamentally much different, which is inappropriate.

The SEC left the door open for the approval of a Bitcoin ETF in the future if the Bitcoin market matures. Peirce thinks the SEC is slowing down the maturation of Bitcoin by keeping institutional investors out of the market.

The SEC commissioner sees that Bitcoin has numerous unique characteristics that make it worthy of being an investment mechanism, including its electronic nature which facilitates transparency and competition. Bitcoins are interchangeable so investors always get the same thing when they purchase it, and Bitcoin mining is worldwide, insulating it against geopolitical threats, unlike other commodity markets which can be damaged and manipulated by a single country.

 

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