One traditional attraction of trading futures is the ability to use relatively small amounts of money to potentially achieve outsized returns. In many futures markets the margin, the amount of money that your broker requires up-front before executing the trade can be quite small compared to the ultimate value of the contract. For example, as of 22-Dec-2017, each E-mini S&P 500 contract was worth $134K ($50*S&P 500 index value)—this “list price” of the contract is called its notional value. The CME only requires you to maintain a minimum margin of $4.5K (3.4% of notional) to control this contract (brokers often require additional margin). Margin requirements this low are only possible because the volatility of the S&P 500 is well understood and your margin account balance is adjusted at the end of every trading day to account for the winnings or losses of the day. If your account balance falls below the margin minimum of $4.5K you’ll need to quickly add money to your account or your position will be summarily closed out by your broker. On the plus side, if you’ve predicted the S&P’s direction correctly your profits will be that same as if you completely owned the underlying stocks in the index. A +1% daily move in the S&P500 would yield $1340 in profit even though you only have $4500 invested— a 29% return—this multiplier effect is called leverage.
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While volatile movements take away the attractiveness of any asset, a certain amount of swing in price creates trading opportunities. This is something that many traders and speculators have been taking advantage of by buying the digital currency and then selling at a profit through an exchange. The whole process makes bitcoin exchanges an important part of the ecosystem since it facilitates the buying and selling of bitcoins, as well as futures trading.
Now let's say that both traders simply hold the January 9 contract to expiration. If price settles at 440, 10% higher, then Bob will get a 50% return on his initial margin (+0.1btc, 5x leverage enhances his 10% gain on the notional 1 bitcoin of the contract) and Ann will lose 50%. (-0.1btc). This is one of the most powerful parts of futures: higher leverage means higher returns on your trades. The leverage feature is essential for hedgers and speculators trying to get the most out of their capital when managing risk. And better yet: you don't pay daily interest or any margin fees on this leverage with bitcoin futures!
When you display any broker’s profile page on the CME list above, you will see on the right hand side this broker’s specialties (a list of industries and/or financial products). As of this articles publication (Nov. 24, 2017), only one broker has added Bitcoin to his list of specialties: Level Trading Field LLC. However, this does not mean that the other brokers won’t handle Bitcoin futures. We expect that more of them will adopt this specialty as soon as Bitcoin futures are on the market.
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Bitcoin relies on blockchain technology. “Blockchain” is a decentralized database. Transactions are grouped in blocks and then chained together through cryptographic links. Blockchain is designed so that the chain can be added to, but not edited. This structure is called a “distributed ledger.” Transactions in the distributed ledger are permanently recorded and can never disappear, although theft and loss of bitcoin can occur. While bitcoin has grown in popularity, it’s still not nearly as widely accepted as traditional currency.
Securities (including short-term securities) and other assets are generally valued at their market value using information provided by a pricing service or market quotations. Short-term securities are valued on the basis of amortized cost or based on market prices. Futures contracts and options on securities, indexes and futures contracts are generally valued at their last sale price prior to the time at which the NAV per share of a class of shares of a Fund is determined. Alternatively, fair valuation procedures as described below may be applied if deemed more appropriate. Routine valuation of certain other derivatives is performed using procedures approved by the Board of Trustees.
• Changes in the Bitcoin Network could have an adverse effect on the operation and value of bitcoin, which could have an adverse effect on the value of Bitcoin Futures Contracts and the value of Fund Shares. The open source nature of the Bitcoin protocol permits any developer to review the underlying code and suggest changes to it via “Bitcoin Improvement Proposals”, or “BIPs.” If accepted by a sufficient number of miners, BIPs may result in substantial changes to the Bitcoin Network, including changes that result in “forks.” Such changes may influence the price of Bitcoin and Bitcoin Futures Contracts. In particular, it is possible that the price of the Bitcoin Futures Contracts subsequent to a “fork” may be linked to the price of bitcoin on only one of the resulting Bitcoin Networks, rather than the aggregate price of bitcoin on all resulting Bitcoin Networks. The CBOE Futures Exchange (“CFE”) and Chicago Mercantile Exchange (“CME”) have announced different protocols for addressing forks.
Making money arbitraging bitcoin futures can be extremely simple. Futures contracts typically trade at a premium, and all you have to do, starting with USD, is buy bitcoin at Spot price and sell futures of the same amount at premium price. Then just wait until expiration to make your arb profit in bitcoin (which you can then put in USD). Whether it's a weekly, monthly, quarterly, or any futures contract, as long as it's in a premium, you lock in the sale price and earn the arbitrage profit.