In a statement widely overlooked by the Bitcoin community, the Federal Reserve published a letter on its website in May 2018 blaming the launch of Bitcoin futures markets on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) for the decline of Bitcoin’s price.
Indeed, Bitcoin futures launched on CME on 17 December 2017, the same day the biggest Bitcoin rally in history reversed into a fall. On the very first day of Bitcoin futures trading, futures opened at USD 20,650 and closed at USD 19,055.
The Federal Reserve says this sort of market behavior has been observed in other asset classes when futures markets are introduced. Specifically, it mentions how the mortgage industry boom was reversed when futures markets for mortgage securities were launched.
Its reason for this is that when a new asset class is born, there are optimistic investors who buy it up, driving the market upwards. However, pessimistic investors have no voice and no way to bet against an asset’s value, until futures markets are launched. Once futures markets are launched, pessimistic investors can short sell, where they buy futures contracts via a loan, sell them for cash and then buy back the contracts later at a lower price before the contracts expire.
The Federal Reserve implicitly says that Bitcoin would have kept rising past USD 20,000 if CME had not launched Bitcoin futures and explicitly says the CME Bitcoin futures are the exact reason for the beginning of Bitcoin’s price collapse.
Further, the investment opportunity presented by Bitcoin futures diverts investment away from the spot markets. Bitcoin futures on CME are cash settled, meaning no Bitcoins are backing them. Therefore, investment into the futures does not increase spot demand for Bitcoin but in fact, causes Bitcoin’s price to be lower since the money invested into the futures is diverted from the spot market.
The Federal Reserve explains how the combination of short selling and diversion of investment away from the spot markets creates a feedback loop which forces Bitcoin’s price lower.
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