Bitcoin to start futures trading, stoking Wild West worries

NEW YORK: Bitcoin fans are salivating over the potential of long-awaited legitimacy for the cyptocurrency when futures trading launches this weekend, but experts worry the risks associated with bitcoin’s Wild West-like nature could overshadow the debut. The first bitcoin future trades kick off on Sunday at 6 pm EST (23:00 GMT) on Cboe Global Markets Inc’s Cboe Futures Exchange, followed a week later by CME Group Inc’s CME.
Nasdaq Inc plans to get into the mix next year.
While Cboe, CME and Nasdaq offer strictly policed trading environments, the underlying bitcoin market is riddled with crypto-exchanges lacking even basic oversight. That has stoked fears of market manipulation, inaccurate pricing, and systemic risk to clearing houses.
“I‘m kind of taken aback by what’s happened in the last three months,” said Richard Johnson, an analyst at Greenwich Associates who owns digital currencies and considers himself a bitcoin bull. “I‘m concerned things are moving a bit too quickly.”
Bitcoin’s more than 10-fold upsurge this year has led to warnings of a bubble by the likes of JPMorgan Chase & Co Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon, who called it “a fraud” that will eventually blow up. Others, like Wall Street adviser Tom Lee, expect bitcoin to top $100,000.
On Wednesday, its hypervolatility was on full display as it broke through $13,000 for the first time on the Luxembourg-based Bitstamp exchange, jumping more than 11 per cent on the day.. Since August 2011, bitcoin has averaged a daily price change of nearly 3 per cent, up or down, compared with a daily average change in the US dollar-euro cross rate of less than 0.5 per cent since the euro’s debut in 1999.
“Maybe it’s just the most unique market that is going to continue to go up forever and ever and so everybody on the long side is going to make money and it’s a great thing, but I’ve been around long enough to know that’s not going to work out so well,” said John Lothian, CEO of advisory firm John J Lothian and Company.
As a virtual currency, bitcoin can be used to move money around the world without the need for a central authority, such as a bank or government, which is a double-edged sword, said Steve Grob, director of group strategy at Fidessa. — Reuters

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