During the market slump last week, there was some banter on Reddit that the crash was going to end Wednesday, January 17 at 4:00 PM EST when the markets closed the first Bitcoin futures contracts on the CBOE expired at $10,900 per Bitcoin. There was even a countdown posted by one Reddit user. While the price of Bitcoin did not rocket back up in the immediate aftermath, altcoins started to rebound hours after the futures contracts expired.
The existence of market makers (e.g., Virtu Financial) refutes a common assertion about futures—that there‘s always a loser for every winner, that it’s a zero-sum game. It’s true that derivatives like stock options and futures are created in matched pairs—a long and a short contract. If two speculators own those two contracts the profits on one side are offset by losses on the other but market makers are not speculators. In general, they’re not betting on the direction of the market. They act as intermediaries, selling to buyers at the higher ask price and buying from sellers at the lower bid price— collecting the difference.
A key attribute of a futures market is how its contract’s prices vary by expiration date. The succession of futures prices over time is called the “term structure”. If supply is stable (no seasonality or shortages) then typically futures prices will increase with expirations further in the future. This term structure configuration is called “contango” and it accounts for the fact that carry costs (e.g., time value of money) and profit expectations increase with time. Unless there are big changes in interest rates or the way that Bitcoin exchanges work I expect the level of contango in the Bitcoin futures term structure to be small. Bitcoins don’t cost much to hodl (once you have your hardware wallet) and there’s no apparent seasonality. The chart below from VIX Central shows a typical Bitcoin term structure (click on chart to get current data):
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The Fund seeks inverse or “short” exposure through short positions in bitcoin futures contracts and other financial instruments. This will cause the Fund to be exposed to certain risks associated with selling securities short. These risks include, under certain market conditions, an increase in the volatility and decrease in the liquidity of asset underlying the short position, which may lower the Fund’s return, result in a loss, have the effect of limiting the Fund’s ability to obtain inverse exposure through financial instruments such as swap agreements and futures contracts, or require the Fund to seek inverse exposure through alternative investment strategies that may be less desirable or more costly to implement. To the extent that, at any particular point in time, the asset underlying the short position may be thinly traded or have a limited market, including due to regulatory action, the Fund may be unable to meet its investment objective due to a lack of available securities or counterparties. During such periods, the Fund’s ability to issue additional Creation Units may be adversely affected. Obtaining inverse exposure through these instruments may be considered an aggressive investment technique. Any income, dividends or payments by the assets underlying the Fund’s short positions will negatively impact the Fund.
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Interestingly, the cryptocurrency market seems to rise and fall simultaneously with the altcoins. Is a systemic issue that causes this harmonious rise and fall of prices on the exchanges? The answer is a little fuzzy, but there are several factors at play. Most exchanges use Bitcoin as the universal trading currency, which leads to many investors buying and selling Bitcoin to buy and sell altcoins. When bitcoin starts a bull run, many of the altcoins fall, as investors jump on the Bitcoin train and vice versa. It’s also systemic because most exchanges require Bitcoin rather than fiat currency to transact. It is easy to invest fiat currency in the market and then leave there as an investor trades it; moving it from one currency to another and not cashing it back to fiat currency. Furthermore, When the Bitcoin price falls or rises against the fiat currency, all the altcoins will usually follow. This is because all altcoin prices are based on their Bitcoin exchange rate, not their fiat currency exchange rate. The value of an altcoin in fiat currency is the value of the altcoin in Bitcoin and then Bitcoin’s value in that fiat currency. It is Bitcoin that strongly affects pricing.
Since a portion of the Fund’s assets are invested in short positions in bitcoin futures contracts, the Fund will likely decline in value when the price of bitcoin futures contracts goes up (unless such losses are offset by gains in the value of the Fund’s positions in other investments), a result that is the opposite from the results of taking long positions in bitcoin futures contracts.
Important agents interacting with those prices are operating in one of three roles: individual speculator, market maker, or arbitrageur. A key role is market maker—a firm that has agreed to simultaneously act as both a buyer and seller for a specific security. When companies sign up for this role they agree to keep the bid/ask prices relatively close to each other—for example even if they aren’t keen on selling Bitcoins at the moment they can’t just set the ask price to an outrageous level. The agreed-upon maximum bid/ask ranges might be tied to market conditions (e.g., wider when deemed a “fast market”) and might allow time-outs but in general, the market maker agrees to act as a buffer between supply and demand.
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Created by Charlie Lee, a former Google engineer, Litecoin is an open-source payment network that operates on a global scale. It is not controlled by any centralized power, and it uses the “scrypt” as proof-of-work. It is similar to Bitcoin but has the advantage of offering a faster rate of generation and therefore faster transactions. This is one of the main reasons why its enthusiasts continue to invest or hold onto the coin even after finding out that its founder sold his stack.
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Last night, Cboe XBTSM Bitcoin Futures commenced trading on the Cboe Futures Exchange. The launch was smooth, although our website experienced some issues due to an overwhelming number of hits looking for the trading data. Now that the futures are up and running, it may be time for a brief explanation of how an owner of bitcoins may use futures to hedge their position.
This mega-powerful currency has not only opened the gate for other currencies, but also leads the cryptocurrency world with pride. It is governed to make sure no extra Bitcoin is produced, as a maximum quantity of 21 Million Bitcoin units was agreed to. When introduced, the rate was $1 to 1,309 BTC. The wheel has turned, and when Bitcoin reached the all-time high of $19,783.21 in 2017, it was certainly a meaningful milestone for Satoshi Nakamoto, the creator of Bitcoin.
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A large investor tends to have portfolios that are diversified enough that they can stomach deviations from expected price movements even with leverage. But smaller investors have smaller accounts, and that is where leverage can be fatal. This is because amplified losses can grow larger than the account balance and cause the need for a margin call when facing the prospect of going into severe debt.