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A Beginner’s Guide to the Bitcoin Spot ETF Buzz

Walter Swift

ByWalter Swift

Oct 16, 2023


Spot Bitcoin ETFs are gaining attention as they promise a more straightforward way for investors to gain exposure to bitcoin, eliminating the need to manage the asset directly or navigate cryptocurrency exchanges. 

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These ETFs are managed by professionals who take care of the bitcoin’s custody, making the investment process more streamlined and secure. However, a significant hurdle remains: obtaining approval from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

Currently, the SEC has approved Bitcoin futures ETFs, which track the future contracts and not the real-time value of bitcoin. These approvals are in contrast to the consistent rejections that spot Bitcoin ETFs have faced.

The SEC’s reservations are rooted in concerns about investor protection and public interest. Despite these challenges, the existence of multiple Bitcoin trusts on the market indicates a potential breakthrough for these ETFs.

Trusts vs. Spot ETFs

When exploring avenues to invest in Bitcoin without the hassle of owning the cryptocurrency, investors often find themselves weighing the options between Bitcoin trusts and spot ETFs. Each of these financial instruments provides indirect exposure to Bitcoin but operates under distinct structures, pricing mechanisms, and regulatory environments.

Inside the World of Bitcoin Trusts

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A Bitcoin trust is essentially a closed-end fund exclusively invested in Bitcoin. It’s a private affair – the shares are non-redeemable, meaning investors can’t exchange them for the Bitcoin contained within the trust. Because of this, the price of the trust’s shares can stray significantly from the actual value of the enclosed Bitcoin.

Iconic names like MicroStrategy Bitcoin Trust and Grayscale Bitcoin Trust come to mind when discussing Bitcoin trusts. Due to a fixed supply of shares, they often fluctuate between trading at a premium or discount to the net asset value (NAV) of the underlying Bitcoin.

Regulation is lighter here. Bitcoin trusts like the GBTC operate under SEC’s Rule 144, offering a pathway for the public quotation of privately placed securities post a holding period but without the rigorous oversight accompanying ETFs.

Understanding Spot Bitcoin ETFs 

In contrast, a spot Bitcoin ETF stands as an open-end fund, continuously issuing or redeeming shares to align with demand, aiming to mirror Bitcoin’s spot price intimately. ETFs grace major exchanges, with their shares traded akin to stocks, offering real-time buying and selling at prices tethered closely to the underlying Bitcoin.

The creation and redemption mechanism of ETF shares ensures the ETF’s price dances closely with the NAV of the encompassed Bitcoin. This dynamic nature fosters an environment where authorized participants can leverage arbitrage opportunities to balance any price discrepancies.

Spot Bitcoin ETFs operate under the watchful eye of the regulatory bodies, courtesy of the Investment Company Act of 1940. This heralds a heightened level of oversight and, subsequently, an enhanced layer of investor protection.

Exploring Options 

Investors tread the line between these options, each offering a unique pathway to Bitcoin exposure. Bitcoin trusts, with their fixed share supply and lighter regulatory touch, might appeal to those comfortable with potential price deviations from the underlying asset.

On the flip side, spot Bitcoin ETFs offer a dynamic, regulated alternative, with prices closely anchored to Bitcoin’s value and the flexibility to respond to market demand in real-time. The choice rests with the investor, balanced on the scales of preference, risk tolerance, and investment horizon.

Impact of a Spot Bitcoin ETF Approval

The introduction of a spot Bitcoin ETF could have significant effects on the Bitcoin market and its price. Drawing parallels to the SPDR Gold Shares (GLD), the first major gold ETF, a Bitcoin ETF could potentially boost Bitcoin’s liquidity, price, and mass adoption. GLD attracted $50 billion in assets under management within six years and catalyzed a 350% increase in gold prices.

A spot Bitcoin ETF, with regulatory approval, could similarly transform the Bitcoin market, making it more accessible and potentially sparking significant price movements.

Final Thoughts 

In conclusion, while self-custody of bitcoin empowers financial autonomy, spot Bitcoin ETFs present a streamlined, regulated alternative for investors not versed in cryptocurrency exchanges self-custody.

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Walter Swift

Walter Swift

Walter Swift is an adept crypto writer, known for his deep insights into the decentralized world. His pieces artfully break down complex blockchain topics, making them accessible to a broad audience. With a passion for emerging technologies, Walter's articles are a beacon for crypto enthusiasts and novices alike.

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