ETF Edge

Bitcoin futures ETF approval likely to be delayed until 2022, market analyst says

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ETF Edge: Bitcoin ETF ruling from SEC is imminent
ETF Edge: Bitcoin ETF ruling from SEC is imminent

Bitcoin backers may have longer to wait for an exchange-traded fund directly tied to the cryptocurrency or its futures contracts, CFRA Research's Todd Rosenbluth told CNBC's "ETF Edge" on Monday.

The price of bitcoin has climbed 35% in the last two weeks as investors grew optimistic about the Securities and Exchange Commission's plans for the numerous bitcoin ETF applications currently under its review.

More than a dozen firms are still waiting to hear whether their respective filings for bitcoin-based ETFs will progress to the public markets. Others, including VanEck, Invesco, Amplify ETFs and Global X, have launched tangential products focused on blockchain infrastructure or the broader cryptocurrency economy.

"We think we're more likely to see a bitcoin futures ETF first," said Rosenbluth, senior director of ETF and mutual fund research at CFRA.

VanEck, ProShares, Invesco, Valkyrie and Galaxy Digital have all filed for bitcoin futures ETFs. The first four could be approved, denied or have their decisions delayed by mid- to late October; Galaxy Digital's fate will be revealed by Nov. 1.

"It's a timing issue," Rosenbluth said. "Does it happen in 2021 or does it move to 2022 so all of these products that ... could meet the goals actually are approved and can launch at the same time instead of getting a first-mover advantage?"

"It's possible — in fact, we think it's likely — that we're going to see a delay of a bitcoin futures ETF until 2022, until the regulatory environment is more clear," he said.

The SEC is mainly concerned about the potential for discrepancies between bitcoin and futures prices, the potential for funds to get too large and push the limits on how many contracts they can own, and the risk of cross-border investment, Van Eck Associates CEO Jan van Eck said in the same interview.

"In bitcoin rallies, bitcoin futures strategies can underperform by even up to 20% a year," van Eck said. "The SEC wants to have some visibility into the underlying bitcoin markets."

As for regulatory control, the SEC already wields it in several ways when it comes to cryptocurrency trading, van Eck said.

Robinhood, which offers crypto trading, falls under the SEC's jurisdiction because it is registered as a broker-dealer, van Eck said. The SEC also may have achieved "de facto regulatory control" over Coinbase, which stopped offering a lending product several weeks ago at the commission's request, he said.

That could help the bitcoin futures ETF's chances, but it's unclear by how much, the CEO said.

"They clearly have some control over players in the underlying bitcoin markets, so maybe that increases the chances from zero, but I have no idea what they are," he said.

In addition to the soft Oct. 25 approval deadline for VanEck's bitcoin futures ETF filing, the SEC has a hard Nov. 14 deadline to approve or deny VanEck's proposal for an ETF based on physical bitcoin.

Disclosure: Invesco is the sponsor of CNBC's "ETF Edge."

Bitcoin rises on optimistic ETF prospects — hopeful issuer shares 2021 outlook
Bitcoin rises on optimistic ETF prospects — hopeful issuer shares 2021 outlook