Assume it is January 3, 2015. Bob and Ann both want to trade at Bitcoin Futures Exchange (BFE). BFE offers 3 different contracts: one expiring and settling on Friday January 9 ('weekly'), another expiring Friday January 16th ('biweekly'), and finally one expiring in March 27 ('quarterly'). Each contract is worth 1 bitcoin notionally. BFE has a policy that traders have to put 20% of margin down to enter a trade, so Bob and Ann deposit 0.2btc to their BFE accounts as they only want to trade 1 contract.
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Let’s say Larry owns one bitcoin and the current price is $16,600, be believes the price is overdone to the upside for a short period of time. This is a fictional example, so don’t beat me up on the outlook, you can criticize Larry, but he’s made up too. Larry has a futures account and sees that he can sell short a January XBT Future at $17,600. He decides to do this and is now short 1 January XBT Future at $17,600.
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He told me that, although he has little to do with Renaissance’s day-to-day activities, he occasionally offers ideas. He said, “I gave them one three months ago”—a suggestion for simplifying the historical data behind one of the firm’s trading algorithms. Beyond saying that it didn’t work, he wouldn’t discuss the details—Renaissance’s methods are proprietary and secret—but he did share with me the key to his investing success: he “never overrode the model.” Once he settled on what should happen, he held tight until it did.
It bears repeating -- when trading futures on leverage, you are not "borrowing" the money, so you don't have to pay a financing rate on your positions. Even though you are 100x exposed, you don't have to pay 100x financing (unless you're trading the perpetual swap, which is not a futures contract, but has similar characteristics). Since bitcoin futures do tend to trade at a premium, you are in a way paying an implied interest rate in the contract, because if you want to go long, you have to pay above spot, so you pay the interest up front in the contract, in a way.
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It’s important to realise that you need to do your own research and come up with your own strategy for cryptocurrency trading. If you are short on time and want to play it safe; the easiest cause of action is to simply diversify into several different coins and then wait a year or more. However, if you want to maximise profits you should learn how to swing trade cryptocurrency.
A Bitcoin (spot or futures) exchange (like any online trading firm) charges its clients a fee to carry out trading activities. As exchanges face the risk of hacking and theft, it is wise not to trust an exchange with all your coins. You should split and keep part of them in other devices or cold storage. Now with bitcoin futures being offered by some of the most prominent marketplaces, investors, traders and speculators are all bound to benefit. These centralized marketplaces will facilitate trade based on a trader’s outlook for bitcoin prices, gain exposure to bitcoin prices or hedge their existing bitcoin positions. Overall, the launching of bitcoin futures by Cboe and CME will facilitate price discovery and price transparency, enable risk-management via a regulated bitcoin product and give a further push to bitcoin as an accepted asset class. (For more, see: The Risks Of Buying Bitcoins.)
There's a lot of ins and outs which can get confusing in arbitrage trading. We won't go into the technicals of why futures contracts trade at a premium to spot price. You can read a full explanation here. If it's not of interest to you, all you need to know is that there's a tendency, the further out in time the futures contract expires, for the premium to spot to be higher and higher in nominal percentage terms.