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NYSE Owner: We Aren’t Rushing Toward Bitcoin, Yet

Last Updated March 4, 2021 5:02 PM
Josiah Wilmoth
Last Updated March 4, 2021 5:02 PM

The owner of the world’s largest stock exchange does not believe it is wise to race to be the first U.S. exchange to list bitcoin futures contracts.

Over the past several months, exchange operators have been rushing to bring the first regulated bitcoin futures contracts to market. Chicago-based CME Group appeared to have the early edge, and last week it announced it had received approval from the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) to list bitcoin futures on December 18.

However, fellow Chicago exchange Cboe stole CME’s thunder, because on Monday it announced it had filed a product certification with the CFTC to begin bitcoin futures trading this Sunday. Nasdaq, the world’s second-largest stock exchange, is also reportedly planning to launch bitcoin contracts on its futures exchange during the first or second quarter of 2018.

The rush to launch bitcoin-derived products signals that cryptocurrency is well on its way to permeating the mainstream financial industry, but at least one exchange operator is hesitant to list products for this emerging asset class.

“We may be stupid for not being first on that, Intercontinental Exchange Inc. (ICE) Chairman and CEO Jeffrey Sprecher told a financial conference in New York earlier this week, according to a Reuters report .

ICE owns and operates dozens of exchanges, most notably the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), whose market cap is three times as large as that of the Nasdaq.

But although Sprecher said ICE may be “stupid” for taking a wait-and-see approach to bitcoin futures, he said that it was too risky to be the first to bring such an untested product to market.

“We didn’t think it was obvious to rush out a product and be first and settle against an index on a lot of exchanges that are not particularly transparent,”  Sprecher said, adding that he feared that bitcoin sellers would use the futures as an opportunity to manipulate the market and exit large positions, a scenario that would reflect poorly on exchanges that list bitcoin futures.

“To short that would mean that they have decided to exit and through a legitimate, high-standing, regulated venue, they are exiting, and I look at that and just say, is that going to work out well for me as a venue?”

Despite these concerns, many people believe that the launch of bitcoin futures will lend bitcoin legitimacy in the eyes of both institutional and retail investors, leading to the creation of the first Bitcoin ETF, as well as other bitcoin investment products wrapped in familiar packages.

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