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March 26, 2021

FUD sets in as ETFs perhaps become a distant reality

Bitcoin is by far one of best performing assets so far this year in any market, yet this week’s bearish turn has many sounding the alarm bells.

Bitcoin is up 79 percent year-to-date (YTD), an incredible return by any measure. But the mood around crypto markets right now is one of fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD) over a potential return to prices last seen before the turn of the year – all over a 10 percent decline to just over $50,000.

Crypto natives adore the notion of parabolic moves, despite being fully aware that the pump will be followed by an equally monumental dump. And any pull back in prices is usually met with an extreme sense of personal attack. Taking a step back, though, there are some clear fundamental drivers behind the recent purge.

For one, despite the retracement, underlying interest in digital assets from institutional money managers continues to increase, this is important when looking through short-term price swings. One only has to look at the recent moves by the likes of Fidelity and Goldman Sachs in respect to their filings with regulators for various structured products. While GS’s filing is for a tracker like structure, Fidelity is after the prized exchange-traded fund, which would allow retail investors to bet on the price of Bitcoin without the need to buy and store the cryptocurrency themselves, would be registered as the Wise Origin Bitcoin Trust. Fidelity Service Company Inc would serve as the administrator, and Fidelity Digital Assets would custody the physical Bitcoin underlying the ETF, should it be approved.

But, it is worth remembering that there is in fact already an ETF in Canada which has seen a huge amount of demand from the day one. The reason all this matters is because up until now, market participants, at least from the institutional side, were overly focused on the GBTC premium and trading around the spread and lock-ups. Now, should an ETF be approved by regulators, there is a risk that GBTC’s position will be compromised further. The premium at which it traded is no longer a premium but a discount – an arbitrage opportunity if ever there was one.

However, as noted by CoinDesk, CEO Michael Sonnenshein, who took over Grayscale – owned by CoinDesk parent Digital Currency Group – in January, suggested U.S. regulators still aren’t ready to approve a bitcoin ETF, even though Grayscale is preparing for such an eventuality. Perhaps a case of one bolstering his own book, but still worth considering.

A bitcoin ETF would likely oust Grayscale’s Bitcoin Trust (GBTC) product from its dominant position by offering investors far lower fees and nixing the fund’s premium/discount discrepancies, negatives that have spooked some advisories from touching GBTC. Rebuffing assertions that an armada of recent bitcoin fund products could challenge GBTC with more competitive fee structures, Sonnenshein said the trust’s two percent annual fee would remain, and chalked up Grayscale’s collapsing premium to the forces of supply and demand.

“There have been so many shares created that that has put some selling pressure on the stock itself, but ultimately [I] do not foresee this as a product issue.”

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