Bitcoin futures surge 21 per cent on debut

NEW YORK/SYDNEY: Bitcoin futures jumped more than 20 per cent in their eagerly anticipated US debut, which backers hope will encourage wider use and legitimacy for the world’s largest cryptocurrency even as critics warn of the risk of a bubble and price collapse.
The launch on Sunday night may have caused an early outage of the Chicago-based CBOE Global Markets’website. The exchange said that due to heavy traffic on the CBOE Global Markets website, the site “may be temporarily unavailable.”
The one-month bitcoin contract opened trade at 6 pm at $15,460, dipped briefly and then rose to a high of $18,700.
As of 0630 GMT, it was up 17 per cent from the open at $18,140, with 2,368 contracts traded.
On the Luxembourg-based Bitstamp, bitcoin prices surged 9.6 per cent to $16,100. It is up more than 1,400 per cent so far in 2017, and its gains in the past month have been rapid.
Experts had worried that the risks associated with the currency’s Wild West-like nature could overshadow the futures debut. Bitcoin tumbled 20 per cent in 10 hours on Friday.
“Even if there is an institution or institutional-sized trader out there, they are going to want to make sure that the mechanics work first, just for the futures,” said Ophir Gottlieb, chief executive officer of Los Angeles-based Capital Market Laboratories.
“I think the excitement will come when the futures market is established. That can take a few days,” Gottlieb added.
The futures are cash-settled contracts based on the auction price of bitcoin in US dollars on the Gemini Exchange, which is owned and operated by virtual currency entrepreneurs and brothers Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss. Bitcoin was quoted at $16,355 on the Gemini exchange.
Market participants said the launch of the futures contract wouldn’t necessarily reduce volatility in the cryptocurrency.
“There are no ways to arbitrage between the market and other exchanges, CBOE cannot settle Bitcoin as far as I know,” said Leonhard Weese, president of the Bitcoin Association of Hong Kong, referring to sharp differences in bitcoin prices worldwide.
“Regular bitcoin traders don’t have access to it, and the trading desks that use the futures market don’t have access to bitcoin.”
While bitcoin’s price rise mystifies many, its origins have been the subject of much speculation.
It was set up in 2008 by someone or some group calling themselves Satoshi Nakamoto, and was the first digital currency to successfully use cryptography to keep transactions secure and hidden, making traditional financial regulation difficult if not impossible. — Reuters