The application by BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, for approval of a Bitcoin spot ETF with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is the biggest story in the crypto market today. Numerous experts are extremely optimistic that an approval of the first Bitcoin spot ETF in the US will be a massively bullish event, attracting huge amounts of new capital and triggering a new bull run.
But where does this theory come from? Bitcoin is often referred to as the digital gold of the 21st century, so it’s an obvious choice to look at the history of gold and the first gold based spot ETF.
Why The BlackRock Bitcoin ETF Would Be So Bullish
The first thing to note is that BlackRock applied for a spot ETF and not a Futures ETF. The SEC has already approved a number of Bitcoin Futures ETFs that hold Bitcoin futures contracts on the CME. These are currently traded on the US equity markets, but have relatively low popularity. And this has its reasons, first and foremost the so-called “drag”, as Scimitar Capital explains.
Drag refers to the underperformance of a fund that attempts to replicate the return of a particular underlying asset and is a long-term result of regular portfolio rebalancing. To track the spot price, BITO, the largest bitcoin futures ETF, holds 2/3 in the front-month future and 1/3 in the following month.
However, this “rolling” is costly because of transaction fees, slippage and because futures for the last month are usually traded at a premium over the first month in BTC (“contango”). For this reason, futures ETFs are not a good investment for retail traders in the long run and are therefore unpopular.
A Bitcoin spot ETF does not have these disadvantages. “This is the reason why physically backed ETFs like GLD and IAU for gold have a combined 90B of AUM whereas futures backed ones like BITO and USO have a paltry 1.6B,” Scimitar Capital says.
The first gold ETF, the SPDR Gold Trust ETF (GLD), was listed on the NYSE on November 15, 2004 and revolutionized gold trading. Before GLD came on the market, it was possible to invest in gold in the form of bars, coins, certificates and shares of gold mining companies.
The exchange-traded fund made investing in precious metals a no-brainer and eliminated the problems of shipping and vaults. The same revolution could be coming to Bitcoin by a Bitcoin spot ETF. Retail investors could hold Bitcoin long-term through the ETF without worrying about custody and private keys.
And the revolution in gold also made itself felt in the price. While the price of gold was still below $450 per ounce in November 2004, gold saw a meteoric rise in the years that followed.
In September 2011, less than seven years after the launch, gold was trading at $1920 per ounce. Many economic factors have influenced the price of gold, but the launch of ETFs certainly played an influential role in attracting global institutional funds to the market.
The digital gold of the 21st century, Bitcoin, may yet see this price explosion if history repeats itself.
At press time, BTC traded at $25,604, reclaiming the 200-day EMA (blue line).
Featured image from iStock, chart from TradingView.com