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How CME, NASDAQ, and Bakkt Bitcoin Futures Impact the Bitcoin Market

What Are Bitcoin Futures And How Do They Impact The Bitcoin Market?

A futures market offers traders the ability to bet on whether the price of an asset, such as precious metals, commodities, or stocks, will go up or down in the future. Specifically, a futures contract is an agreement to buy or sell an asset for a predetermined price at a precise time in the future.  If the price of the asset goes up during the lifespan of a futures contract then the trader makes a profit. This is because the trader gets to buy the asset at a lower price than the asset’s true value when the futures contract expires. 

Also, futures markets can be used for hedging risk. For example, if a business uses gasoline to power its fleet of trucks, and a price rise is expected, then that business can buy a gasoline futures contract. Rising gas prices make it more expensive to operate the fleet of trucks, but this expense is negated by profits earned from the futures contract. Thus, trading futures contracts can lessen the blow of adverse price movements when operating a business. 

CME and CBOE Cash-Backed Bitcoin Futures Have Hurt the Bitcoin Market

The first official Bitcoin futures market in the United States launched in early December 2017 on the Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) launched the 2nd Bitcoin futures market shortly afterward on 17 December. The CBOE Bitcoin futures market has actually closed down due to lack of trading activity, likely due to the CME Bitcoin futures becoming extremely popular and overshadowing CBOE. For example, when CBOE announced the closure of their Bitcoin futures in March 2019, CME was seeing USD 90 million of trading volume per day with CBOE only having USD 8 million of volume. In May, CME saw daily Bitcoin futures trading volume in excess of USD 500 million. 

CME Bitcoin futures is one of the top choices for institutional traders that want to buy and sell Bitcoin. This is because CME Bitcoin futures are officially regulated, can handle high volumes, and there’s no risk of Bitcoin being stolen because the futures are backed by cash, with no actual bitcoins involved. 

Therefore, CME Bitcoin futures provide a conduit for institutional investors with deep pockets to get involved in the cryptocurrency market. However, institutional demand flowing into the CME Bitcoin futures market does not increase demand in the Bitcoin spot markets, since CME Bitcoin futures do not use actual bitcoins. Instead, the CME Bitcoin futures are actually diverting demand away from the Bitcoin spot market, as well as inflating the Bitcoin supply since the futures contracts are essentially equivalent to paper bitcoins. 

Although the diversion of demand away from spot markets and the printing of paper bitcoins already theoretically cause Bitcoin’s price to be lower than it would be if the CME Bitcoin futures did not exist, the worst thing is that CME introduces massive short-selling pressure into the Bitcoin market. The Federal Reserve posted a statement indicating that the 2018 bear market was likely initiated by the launch of the CME Bitcoin futures, and it is apparently quite common for an asset to crash in price when a futures market is launched for the first time. Indeed, the day of the CME Bitcoin futures launch, 17 December 2017, was the same day that Bitcoin hit its all-time high and began to crash.

The reason it is possible to short on a futures market is that traders can buy Bitcoin futures contracts with funds from a margin loan, and then sell the Bitcoin futures contracts immediately. If Bitcoin’s price declines during the contract period, then the traders can buy back the Bitcoin futures contract at a lower price when the contract expires, leaving behind a tidy profit in their account. 

Essentially, it was just about impossible for institutional investors to short Bitcoin before the CME and CBOE Bitcoin futures launched, and institutional investors generally only had the option to buy and sell spot Bitcoin. The CME and CBOE Bitcoin futures gave institutional investors the capability to truly short Bitcoin for the first time.

Aside from helping to precipitate the 2018 bear market, the CME Bitcoin futures influence the Bitcoin market on a month to month basis. An analysis shows that the price of Bitcoin often pivots, i.e. reverses its trend, when the monthly CME Bitcoin futures expiration occurs. This may represent CME Bitcoin futures traders collectively deciding to go short or long at the beginning of a new monthly contract period. 

For example, in late June 2019, as Bitcoin recorded a new 2019 high of USD 13,800, CME Bitcoin futures traders began to collectively open short positions for July. Interestingly, institutional traders were mostly going short, while small traders were going long and expecting the Bitcoin rally to continue. Ultimately the institutional traders on CME ended up being correct, with Bitcoin declining as low as USD 9,000 during July. 

Therefore, it is important for Bitcoin traders to be aware of CME Bitcoin futures expiration dates since it might herald a change in the market trend. 

Bakkt Physical Bitcoin Futures, Will They Ever Launch?

While CME Bitcoin futures are cash-backed and seem to have an overall negative influence on the Bitcoin market, it is possible that one day physical Bitcoin futures will launch on Bakkt. Physical Bitcoin futures would provide a safe and efficient conduit for institutional traders to get involved in the Bitcoin market, while simultaneously increasing spot Bitcoin demand since for each futures contract purchased on Bakkt there are actual bitcoins backing it.  

The launch of Bakkt physical Bitcoin futures has been delayed several times since 2018 due to regulatory concerns. Specifically, the Commodities Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) has delayed Bakkt because it wants to custody the Bitcoin on behalf of its customers, while generally, futures markets in the United States use a 3rd party qualified custodian. 

As of late July, Bakkt has begun testing their physical Bitcoin futures, but there is no official launch date, which is unfortunate considering that the Bakkt physical Bitcoin futures would likely have a positive impact on the market. 

NASDAQ Bitcoin Futures, More of the Same?

In 2018 NASDAQ, which is one of the biggest stock exchanges in the United States, announced that they would launch Bitcoin futures in the first half of 2019. Just like with Bakkt, NASDAQ seems to have missed its target launch date due to CFTC regulatory concerns. 

BREAKING: BTC is now being traded on the Nasdaq! I bought one BTC through my TDAmeritrade account! According to the chart it started trading April 10, 2019!! Other digital assets are soon to follow!! 🚀🚀🚀

— Cryptopolis (@cryptopolis_x) April 22, 2019

In April there was speculation that NASDAQ had begun testing a Bitcoin-based product under the symbol CXERX. It is unknown if this was the Bitcoin futures product or something else since NASDAQ did not disclose any details about it. 

As of now there is no publicly disclosed launch date for NASDAQ Bitcoin futures. More importantly, it seems that the NASDAQ Bitcoin futures will be backed by cash like CME. Although NASDAQ Bitcoin futures would provide a conduit for institutional traders to enter the Bitcoin market, this could end up adding to the negative effects of the CME Bitcoin futures. 

In summary, Bitcoin futures like those on CME offer institutional investors an easy way to enter the Bitcoin market, which has caused the CME Bitcoin futures to become quite popular. NASDAQ wants to get in on the action and launch their own Bitcoin futures markets. Unfortunately, it seems the cash-backed nature of CME Bitcoin futures has damaged the Bitcoin market via diverting demand away from the spot market, introducing massive short selling pressure, and printing paper bitcoins. If NASDAQ Bitcoin futures do eventually launch it could be more of the same. It seems the greatest hope for the Bitcoin market is Bakkt physical Bitcoin futures since they would provide a conduit for institutional investors to increase spot market demand. Unfortunately, regulators are making it difficult for Bakkt’s physical Bitcoin futures, and there is no sign that they will launch anytime soon. Perhaps Bakkt will eventually launch and help negate some of the damage caused by the CME Bitcoin futures.
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Binance on the Move with “No FUD” $81 Million BTC Transfer

Binance on the Move with _No FUD_  Million BTC Transfer

Malta-based cryptocurrency exchange Binance raised a few eyebrows this week when it announced that a USD 81 million Bitcoin transaction was soon to be en route.

The world’s biggest exchange assured users that there was “no need to FUD”, but it took some criticism from market analysts at its boast. David Tawil, president of crypto hedge fund ProChain Capital, said this was not the way exchanges normal conduct business and the Twitter announcement probably wouldn’t go down too well with the SEC. Of Binance’s “atypical” big transfer announcement, Tawil suggested that with SEC approval still awaited by the exchange giant, “it’s best if crypto industry players conform to already established norms”. He detailed:

“Within long-established Wall Street norms, its Twitter announcement is unusual, exchanges, such as the NYSE or the CBOE, don’t typically broadcast future block trades and don’t announce them via Twitter.”

Binance is clearly on the move, putting their travails behind them, such as last months USD 40 million hack, recently introducing its own blockchain. It also has plans to raise a reserve of 9,001 Bitcoin to cover a Bitcoin-pegged coin backed by a native coin which will trade on its platform. On the new tokens, the company commented that sales would experience a boost, commenting, “With the increase in the selection of tokens available on Binance DEX, there should be an increase in trading volume and liquidity.”

In the past, Bitcoin-derived assets have been faked, or tokens produced with a similar ticker, but the exchange claims that Binance Chain will take care of such issues to make sure such problems don’t occur. Binance also recently announced the launch of a trading platform, Binance US, specifically for US customers. This platform comes as a comfort to facilitate fiat-to-crypto exchange to serve full-fledged trading abiding by the market regulations.


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PayPal, Visa Face No Dire Threat from Bitcoin, Claims Analyst

An analyst at research firm MoffetNathanson has claimed that Bitcoin is no more than a minor threat to established methods of payment such as Visa and Mastercard.

Lisa Ellis, working for the researchers who cover the media and internet retail sectors, suggested that speed of transaction delivery will remain Bitcoin’s main hurdle to becoming a challenger in the industry. It is a concern of some of the world’s largest retailers.

Ellis, an outspoken critic of Bitcoin, said that so long as Visa and Mastercard were available, she wouldn’t even buy a cup of coffee with Bitcoin. She saw little sense in casting any preference in using cryptocurrencies over more traditional payment methods such as cash, credit or electronic payment. She appears to leave the door open for possibilities, however, acknowledging that the day Bitcoin would be used as a mainstream payment method may lie in the future.

However, one important factor overlooked by the MoffetNathanson analyst is the excessive fees charged by credit card companies, which is driving some companies to reconsider their options. Rumors that the supermarket giant Kruger might be considering Bitcoin as an alternative payment method have been backed up by comments made by Morgan Creek recently. The company’s partner, Anthony Pompliano, recently announced that he had spoken to a Kroger Digital representative regarding adding crypto payments as an alternative to Visa, after Kruger ditched the credit card giant due to excessive fees.

In reality, Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies’ value have rarely reflected their use in terms of market position. Usage is well documented as being in the ascendancy moving forward, and Bitcoin is now recognized as a store of value by intuitional investors with interest mounting elsewhere in futures contracts after both CME and CBOE exchanges began offering Bitcoin futures in 2018.


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Ethereum Futures Contract: Net Sentiment Appears Positive

Ethereum Futures Contract: Net Sentiment Appears Positive

The United States Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) is currently reviewing entries from its Request for Input on Crypto-Asset Mechanics and Markets initiative set up last year aimed at collecting information about Ethereum and the resulting impact of a futures contract based on the digital asset.

After reviewing 43 entries, of which 29 of them seem to provide credible insights into the subject matter, an overall assessment may be that of positive sentiment towards an Ethereum-based futures contract. Of the entries, industry experts such as members from the Ethereum Foundation, Coinbase, Consensys, Circle, Craig Wright, ErisX, among others had provided their opinions about the stance of Ethereum in comparison to Bitcoin – which already has an approved futures contract running.

Highlights from the entries included describing the nature of Ethereum as being essentially a smart contract decentralized application (Dapp) creator first, before being considered a store of value or as a medium of exchange.

The Ethereum Foundation clarified that the intrinsic designs of the Ethereum network are “not financial in nature but simply use the blockchain as a source of high-assurance computation and data storage”.

Circle emphasized on Ethereum’s medium of exchange value: “As with Bitcoin, Ether can be used to pay for transactions and can be used for payments. Unlike bitcoin, tokens on the Ethereum network can be generated using smart contracts and can be used in smart contracts and transfers.”

Another comparison described Bitcoin as simply a store of value and medium of exchange, while with the nature of Ethereum’s versatility, the risks scale alongside, as the Futures Industry Association (FIA) opined: “With the Ethereum Network’s architecture, risk management is potentially more complicated than for Bitcoin by orders of magnitude…”

On the other hand, when the regulator asked about the impact of an approved futures contract on the asset itself, ErisX offered its opinion, suggesting that it would have a more positive impact on the growth and maturation of the market. It believes a futures contract will provide “the potential for greater liquidity, more effective price discovery, and more efficient risk transference”.

Although other players in the industry may have had slightly more critical views about the Ethereum network, the compromise did come at a shared view from larger players on more regulatory oversight on the industry.

The first obstacle to a second official cryptocurrency futures contract in the United States may have been scaled when the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) said Ethereum won’t be regulated as security. The second important milestone is an approval from the CFTC, which was initiated when the regulator asked for public opinions about the Ethereum network. CBOE plans to launch an Ethereum futures contract currently awaits the regulator’s approval.

Bitcoin futures contract were launched by Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) and Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE) in late 2017, which had a compelling effect on the crypto market, taking it to new all-time highs at the time. One major sentiment in the market is that more derivative contracts would have a similar effect on the market. As such, an approved Ethereum futures contract in the US may bode well for the Ethereum support community since the asset’s market value has depreciated by as much as 94.2% at some point; and currently, its price has dropped 89.6% since it’s last all-time high.

Although cryptocurrency exchange BitMEX currently offers an Ethereum futures contract quoted in Bitcoin and has been receiving positive patronage in recent times, still, the market could be set up for an explosive uptrend should the CFTC grant its approval to the CBOE exchange.


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Binance: ETFs Not Core to Crypto Growth

ETFs Are Not Core to Crypto Industry’s Growth, Binance CEO Weighs In

A popular trend as the cryptocurrency industry develops is the introduction of the analogous derivative instruments of the traditional financial market, aimed at luring in institutional investors into the crypto world. One such instrument is the exchange-traded fund (ETF).

CEO of leading cryptocurrency exchange Binance, Changpeng Zhao, has, however, downplayed the role of ETFs in the growth of the crypto industry. He said: “If it [a Bitcoin ETF] is listed on a big traditional exchange… that does bring in a lot of attention from people outside our industry.”

In a live stream via Periscope on 6 February, Zhao attempted to draw the attention of crypto enthusiasts to a very important piece in blockchain development – entrepreneurs building real, and usable products.

Blame it on the bear

The bear market which started at the cusp of the last all-time high of Bitcoin hasn’t made it easy for crypto projects. Many startups last year faced developmental challenges and were either forced to abandon their projects or get absorbed by another. Now, lots of players in the industry have become highly dependent on these market derivatives being introduced.

First, it was Bitcoin futures introduced by CME Group and CBOE in late 2017, which helped drive the price of Bitcoin to a new high of USD 20,000. However, it didn’t last long. Suffice to say, it was an opportunistic glitch in the price dynamics of Bitcoin.

Secondly, speculations about another bull-run propelled by ETFs run deep in the crypto community. Perhaps similar trends are bound to occur with more derivatives being introduced into the sphere, however, without an established value-based blockchain ecosystem in place, the market could get dire once more.

ETFs or no ETFs

As of the time of writing, the US securities regulator, Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) has rejected nine ETF applications. Each was laden with similar bull run expectations from the members of the crypto community as many have speculated on the prices increase should the SEC give the green light.

Recently,CBOE, along with investment firm VanEck and financial services company SolidX, reapplied for a rule change to list Bitcoin ETFs after withdrawing it a week earlier.

With the ongoing fuss about Bitcoin ETFs, Zhao seems to think that with or without the ETFs, the industry will grow. A sentiment probably sparsely shared as focus on the real development of blockchain and its applications are fairly the driving motif for latter blockchain adopters.

Other derivatives are coming

Bitcoin News recently reported a new class of derivative instrument being introduced by US-regulated derivative platform LedgerX, which is essentially a binary wager on the next Bitcoin’s block-reward halving.

While derivatives may be an economic milestone for the crypto industry, the overall utility of blockchain applications and their gradual adoption by legacy systems adequately offset the economic benefits of derivate crypto markets.


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Only 3% of Americans Bought Something With Bitcoin Last Month, A 5-Year Bet Reveals

A recent podcast by Planet Money, reflected on a bet made 5 years ago between Bitcoin bull and venture capitalist Ben Horowitz whose firm has made investments worth over USD 50 million into crypto and financial journalist Felix Salmon, paints a peculiar angle on Bitcoin adoption.

The bet which hinged on the adoption state of Bitcoin in 5 years as currency, had Horowitz predicting that it would have revolutionized the face of e-commerce such that 10% of people living in the US would use the currency for frequent online purchases. This happened back in 2014 when Bitcoin’s price wavered around USD 360 to USD 760.

Meanwhile, Salmon was confident about his bet, stating how Bitcoin’s value will indeed increase but not because of its use but rather based on a speculative rise in value. He cited how those who bought Alpaca socks using Bitcoin would regret, noting the price increase, and would have preferred sitting on it rather than spend it.

A sample pool survey was recently conducted to know who had won the bet – gauging how many Americans currently use Bitcoin for everyday online purchases. The bet was concluded recently, having to declare Salmon the winner, as only 3% of 900 Americans had actually bought something with Bitcoin in the past month.

Real Adoption

The mainstream real adoption of Bitcoin can be approached from three angles: One, where people who actually buy the coin become long term holders (store of value), hoping the price will reach astronomical highs and cash in on the ‘patience-profit.’ The second, where cryptocurrency adoption has been heavily facilitated by payment infrastructures such as merchant adoption, and the increased installation of Bitcoin ATM kiosks. The third has to do with the introduction of sophisticated markets such as futures contracts and exchange-traded funds (ETFs) for institutional investors.

Regardless of the adoption route, most of the early sentiments were founded upon hysterical predictions based on the assumptions that Bitcoin and its underlying technology had come to replace legacy financial systems and hence prices would go as high as USD 50,000. However, these sentiments have been counterbalanced by a rather economically bearish one that renders the initial logic as heavily flawed.

The outcome is a juxtapose of a computer science-based backing of the blockchain, Bitcoin, and cryptography, as against economic assessment of currency functions and financial asset manipulation. More so, many now rely on the economic aspects for further adoption at this point. This is the case with the constant lookout for institutional grade investment opportunities like those of the Bakkt; in the hopes of repeating what CME Group and CBOE’s Bitcoin futures contract did in late 2017.

It is clear though, that back in the early days of the industry’s development, very important structures such as scalability, and regulations were of little concern, and may have consequently cost the industry years ahead of a full-blown mainstream adoption of Bitcoin.

Over time, many influencers have taken turns on the prediction wheel; John McAfee had his predictions set to USD 1 million per Bitcoin; Thomas Lee thought at best case scenario, it would reach USD 25,000 in the past year but later on blamed regulatory uncertainty for falling short. So far, none of the near-term predictions have materialized. If anything, Bitcoin as a currency has struggled to maintain upward price projections, and as a store of value, it’s really still too soon to tell – 10 years into its development.

One thing is certain, treating Bitcoin like some gambling chip is a lot riskier than the real deal. While the tech does hold promise and has ushered in prospects of a great financial revolution, the subject of adoption will apparently continue to be an important one many years from now moving forward.

On the tech side, industry adoption has been growing consistently with legacy systems fine-tuning system processes using the distributed ledger.

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CBOE Scraps Bitcoin ETF Application

CBOE Scraps ETF Application For Now

The cryptocurrency community will have to wait a little longer for the first hotly-anticipated Bitcoin exchange-traded fund ETF as CBOE has officially withdrawn its application, albeit temporarily.

The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) published a document on 23 January detailing the withdrawal from CBOE of the VanEck SolidX Bitcoin Trust application.

The ongoing US government shutdown, which has now surpassed the longest of its kind in history, is being attributed as the primary reason for the application being withdrawn. Working to a February deadline, it seemed very unlikely there would be enough staff at the SEC to process the application in time. It appears most likely that CBOE has chosen to refile the application in the future rather than suffer the repercussions associated with failing to gain approval by the deadline.

Bitcoin has not experienced any significant losses since the announcement and has managed to hold above USD 3,500.

VanEck was considered by many analysts to be the industry’s leading for hope for receiving ETF approval, with CBOE being the first firm to receive the SEC’s approval for Bitcoin futures trading.

Writing on Twitter, VanEck CEO Gabor Gurbacts assured spectators the ETF application had only been “temporarily withdrawn”.

The Bitcoin ETF filing has been temporarily withdrawn. We are actively working with regulators and major market participants to build appropriate market structure frameworks for a Bitcoin ETF and digital assets in general. Will keep you updated.

— Gabor Gurbacs (@gaborgurbacs) January 23, 2019


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Nasdaq Full Steam Ahead on Bitcoin Futures, New Target Q1 2019

Bloomberg has reported that Nasdaq Inc has decided to move forward with its plans to list Bitcoin futures and this could happen as soon as the first quarter of 2019.

Nasdaq is following up on its initial plans in November 2017 to launch Bitcoin futures in 2018, doing so in the hopes of sustaining a long-term cryptocurrency patronage. However, it failed to execute its original plans, committing to satisfy the standards imposed by the US financial regulator Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC).

Bitcoin futures were thought to be instrumental to the astronomical rise of the price of Bitcoin last year, with the market registering price verticals as high as USD 20,000. The first two derivative markets to launch the bitcoin futures were CBOE Global Markets Inc and CME Group Inc, after which the CFTC decided to review the processes for listing crypto derivatives.

Nasdaq’s decision comes as a bold move considering the current market conditions, as Bitcoin has dropped from its all-time high and now trades as low as USD 4,000.

The current market conditions seem to have fallen short of the initial expectations that institutional investments attracted by the Bitcoin futures contract would be the sustaining wave for the next cryptocurrency mass adoption. However, this year’s market has only been in the reverse. Still, institutional investments remain a topic of focus as speculation on them make headlines daily.

Moving forward, it does seem as though Nasdaq had been brewing on its plans to ensure that it meets the demand of a wide range of investors and ensure that its contracts services are foolproof, thereby outpacing its competitors. This was disclosed by an unnamed source reported by Bloomberg who said:

“The Nasdaq futures will be based off the Bitcoin’s price on numerous spot exchanges, as compiled by VanEck Associates Corp… CME uses prices from four markets, while it’s just one at Cboe.”

On a general note, Nasdaq has shown a keen interest into blockchain technology as a whole alongside the derivative systems, even considering the possibility of a Nasdaq cryptocurrency exchange in the future.


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Bitcoin Stabilizes As Market Speculation Falls According to Experts

Bitcoin’s stability over the recent months has cryptocurrency commentators agreeing that speculation is leaving the market and giving way to a sense of stability.

With Bitcoin holding its ground since July of this year, many experts are now predicting that the volatility which preceded Bitcoin’s leveling out has little chance of returning, as Bitcoin’s price shifting 5 percent in a day only once in the last month compared to more frequent higher percentage fluctuations in preceding months.

Some argue that this is a sign of Bitcoin “bottoming out,” others predict a bullish run is just around the corner. What most experts do agree on is that stability is good for the market and most likely a result of speculators falling by the wayside as chances of a quick profit on their investment seems unlikely. Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Mike McGlone sees this as the most likely scenario suggesting “High volatility is a major factor lessening most cryptocurrency use cases for anything other than speculation.”

Bitcoin’s price has reached unprecedented levels of stability during the latter half of October 2018, so far at least. After some volatility in the middle of October, the price of Bitcoin has settled into a narrow trading between USD 6,350 and USD 6,500. The daily volatility of Bitcoin fell below USD 100 on 19 October and continues to be below that threshold as of 26 October. This is the first time an entire week has had such low volatility since at least April 2017.

Charlie Morris, multi-asset head at Atlantic House Fund Management in London asserts that the bear market is coming to an end commenting, “It simply means the market is calm and in balance. That implies that speculative interest is low… Given this bear market is now 10 months old and is getting tired, I’d be inclined to be bullish for the next major move.”

Recent CBOE Global Markets data shows that the 20-day historical volatility of Bitcoin has fallen to 31.5 percent, lower than many major companies, including Amazon (35 percent), Netflix (52 percent), Nvidia Corp (4o percent) and Domino’s Pizza (36.2 percent).

Kevin Davitt from CBOE suggests that Bitcoin’s current status could be the flagship’s new standard position and therefore resistant to major change:

“Perhaps we are witnessing the maturation of a market. It’s far too early to declare this the ‘new normal’ but the persistent range over the last few weeks may be hinting at a structural shift. Time will tell.”

Danial Daychopan, chief executive officer of Plutus, suggests this is the after effect of the heady days of  speculation in 2017, and rather than a hangover, Bitcoin’s current stability is more of a leveling out, commenting that “the cost of the emotional traders has been washed away by the recent crash and with it a lot of the volatility.”

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Futures Expiration Causes Extreme Bitcoin Volatility

The Bitcoin market experienced extreme volatility on 19 September 2018, dropping from USD 6,330 to USD 6,100 (-3.6%) in an hour, and then rapidly rising to USD 6,550 (+7.4%) only half an hour later, before dropping again to USD 6,400 (-2.3%) in the next half hour before stabilizing. This rapid and isolated Bitcoin price volatility event coincided with the monthly expiration of Bitcoin futures contracts on the Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), and it is likely that this was the cause of this volatility.

Thomas Lee, the Head of Research at Fundstrat Global Advisors, proposed that the expiration of monthly futures contracts on Bitcoin futures exchanges in Chicago leads to market volatility, particularly price drops. Lee found that on average, from six months of data, Bitcoin’s price drops 18% in the ten days leading up to futures contract expiration.

The mechanism behind this is traders use Bitcoin futures to create short positions, where they make money if Bitcoin’s price drops. Simultaneously they hold actual Bitcoins, and then sell these Bitcoins before futures contract expiration to drive Bitcoin’s price down, increasing their short profits. This volatility event on 19 September is good proof of this theory, since price crashed right before the futures contracts expired, suggesting someone in a short position was trying to drive spot price down at the last minute to make quick profits.

There are two potential reasons for the rally that quickly followed the crash. Perhaps once the Bitcoin futures contracts expired, the investors who sold their Bitcoins bought them back, driving price up. Additionally, the Relative Strength Index (RSI) briefly dropped below 30 during the crash, indicating oversold conditions, which is a relatively rare occurrence for Bitcoin. Other traders and investors who use the RSI to make decisions probably saw this and quickly bought Bitcoin during the time RSI was below 30.

The combination of futures traders buying back Bitcoin, and other traders buying Bitcoin due to the oversold RSI, actually drove RSI up to 68 for a moment, just below the overbought threshold. Some of the same traders who make decisions with RSI might have sold at this point, leading to the slight price drop back to USD 6,400.


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