How Bitcoin Futures Will Affect Price
Bitcoin futures launch tomorrow (Dec. 10) on CBOE and on December 18th for CME Group. Many people speculate that the cause for Bitcoin’s run-up recently is over anticipation for these Bitcoin futures. In this video, I discuss the potential impact of futures on Bitcoin’s price.
First and foremost, I suspect liquidity will be lower than expected. The target group for Bitcoin futures are institutional investors and wealthy individuals, both of which tend to be more cautious. Given the warnings from FIA, Interactive Brokers and many others, these larger investors will likely be more reserved until the first expiration occurs and they have some experience watching the volatility in the futures themselves.
I did a brief explanation of cash-settled futures in the video, but I’d recommend you seek other sources to flesh out your understanding further. For example, I accidentally implied that the initial margin & mark-to-market process is done based off the spot price rather than the settlement price. The explanation I gave in the video is good enough for laymen, but if you want to trade these, then you’ll want to do some serious reading. I might do a video showing how to actually trade them in the future and get more technical.
The initial margin requirements are already high for Bitcoin and might increase depending on volatility. Certain brokers are already implementing higher than required initial margin requirements and are forbidding their clients from going short. Maintenance margin requirements will likely be in flux as well. Price limits might be tested more frequently than anticipated, leading to a choppy futures market which then screws with the underlying spot market. All of this is to say that many investors will wait before pumping significant amounts of capital into this nascent asset class.
Given this, I suspect this might be a “sell-the-news” type event and we might experience a correction following the CME Group futures launching if there are difficulties associated with their clearing. Note that CME Group has much higher contract volume than CBOE, so the CBOE futures launch will likely be more useful as an indicator of what to expect when CME launches.
I also forgot to note in the video that CME Group contracts are for 5 Bitcoin, which may have confused some of you when I said the initial margin requirements would be exceptionally high for CME Group options despite the fact they are going with lower initial margin requirements (35% vs. 44%) as a percentage of the contract value.
In the long-term, futures are excellent news for Bitcoin. They increase liquidity in a somewhat illiquid market, will decrease pricing inconsistencies (arbitrage), improve price discovery, and reduce volatility. The short-term will see volatility rise (likely) due to leverage, but this effect should reduce over the following months. Ideally, this opens the door for a Bitcoin ETF down the road as well. Eventually, more institutional investors will jump in as risk declines – but this will be a delayed effect (in my opinion) rather than an immediate one.
I would love to hear your thoughts. Let me know in the comments below and thank you for watching!
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