Despite a groundbreaking day in the US with the largest Exchange-Traded Fund (ETF) launch for a single asset, the Bitcoin price remained stagnant, hovering around the $46,000 mark. This development has raised questions within the community, particularly in light of the extraordinary trading volume and participation seen in the ETF market.
Record-Breaking ETF Launch
On its first trading day, Bitcoin ETFs saw unprecedented activity. The total volume reached $4.6 billion, distributed among major players such as Grayscale ($2.3 billion), BlackRock ($1 billion), Fidelity ($700 million), ARK 21Shares ($288 million), and Bitwise ($125 million). This event marked over 700,000 individual trades.
Nate Geraci, President of the ETF Store and co-founder of the ETF Institute, remarked, “GBTC had the largest ETF launch by trading volume ever with $2.3 billion… iShares Bitcoin ETF (IBIT) had the 5th largest launch with $1 billion. GBTC obviously had built-in liquidity, but it’s still a record. IBIT’s performance is impressive given it launched the same day as 10 other competitors.”
Bloomberg’s ETF expert Eric Balchunas added, “All told, there were 700,000 individual trades today in and out of the 11 spot ETFs. For context, that is double the number of trades for QQQ (although it sees much bigger $ volume because bigger fish use it). So, there was a lot more grassroots action (versus big seed buys) than I expected, which is good.”
Bitcoin Price Cannot Maintain Its Gains
Despite these impressive figures, the Bitcoin price struggled to surpass the $50,000 threshold. Although BTC briefly touched $49,000, it failed to maintain these gains, dipping to as low as $45,700. At press time, the price settled around $46,000.
Dan Ripoll, managing director at Swan Bitcoin, argued almost everyone expected Bitcoin to either rip, or to sell off on the ETF news, but neither happened. So what’s behind the muted price response?
Ripoll argues that compliance departments at brokerage firms often take “weeks to several months to add new products to their internal ‘approved products list’ for advisors to sell.” Moreover, the expert explained that several large broker-dealers like Vanguard, UBS, Citi and Merrill Lynch have either restricted or disallowed their retail clients to buy any spot Bitcoin ETFs.
A significant point of discussion was Vanguard’s decision to block its customers from buying into the new BTC Spot ETFs, citing that these products “don’t fit with Vanguard’s investment philosophy.” This move by the world’s second-largest asset manager, behind BlackRock, further complicates the landscape for Bitcoin ETF adoption.
“There may be other brokers who blocked these sales as well for ideological reasons. They don’t believe in Bitcoin. I didn’t expect this at all. They’ll lose customers quickly with this strategy,” Ripoll stated.
Rotation Plays And GBTC Selling
Besides that there are reports of investors rotating out of Bitcoin ETF proxies, like BITO and mining stocks, to redeploy capital into better proxies, such as the new spot ETFs. This shift might have mildly suppressed ETF inflows and could take months to fully materialize.
It is also interesting to note that Grayscale accounted for half of yesterday’s trading volume, much of which could have been sell orders. In the run-up to the spot ETF approval, GBTC was a popular bet among speculators who had taken advantage of the discount of over 40% at times in the hope that this would close with the ETF launch. This is exactly what happened, with GBTC only trading at around -1% yesterday.
Thus, most of the GBTC trading was probably selling. This is supported by the fact that there is probably no point for investors to hold the GBTC with its enormous 1.5% yearly fee when other spot Bitcoin ETF issuers offer 0.25%.
Fred Krueger, a crypto expert, stated, “GBTC volume must be 90% sales. Some of that went into IBIT.” BitMEX Research commented, “The GBTC volume could be mostly selling and outflow. It has been trading at a discount for almost all the trading day, so not likely to be buying.”
In summary, the lack of a significant Bitcoin price surge, despite the record ETF day, can be attributed to a combination of factors including GBTC selling, compliance delays, brokerage restrictions, fund rotations, and ideological stances by major financial institutions.
At press time, BTC traded at $45,893.
Featured image created with DALL·E, chart from TradingView.com
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