Twelve applications for spot bitcoin ETFs are awaiting approval from the SEC. Delays are commonplace, but the agency is due to make a call on some of the applications as early as January 1, 2024. The three ETF analysts who spoke to WIRED expect the SEC to green-light a spot bitcoin ETF at some point next year.
In Canada, Germany, and elsewhere, spot bitcoin ETFs already exist. And US investors have had access to bitcoin futures ETFs, the value of which are correlated with the price of bitcoin, since 2021. The approval of a spot bitcoin ETF in the US is significant because it would, for the first time, give US investors access to a close proxy to bitcoin in a familiar and regulated format.
The attention paid to the topic by crypto trade media emphasizes the current fixation in industry circles. Since this summer, when speculation about the arrival of a spot bitcoin ETF began to ratchet up, crypto news site CoinDesk has published dozens of articles and videos on the topic.
In that same period, crypto markets have experienced dramatic swings, and the price of bitcoin has risen by almost a third. In some cases, price swings have been triggered by rumor and misreporting. On October 16, crypto outlet CoinTelegraph issued a retraction and apology after putting out an erroneous post on X announcing the approval of the first spot bitcoin ETF in the US, based on a screenshot posted by an X user, which led to a buying spree that increased the price of bitcoin by 10 percent.
On November 13, a falsified ETF filing relating to a separate cryptocurrency, XRP, caused a 13 percent rise in the token’s price. By the end of the day, those gains had evaporated. The Financial Times calculated that “imaginary bitcoin ETFs” were already worth 30 times the actual spot bitcoin ETFs already in existence worldwide.
Some ETF analysts, like Aniket Ullal of investment research firm CFRA, share the belief that the arrival of an ETF is likely to increase demand for bitcoin as an investment asset. But the effect on price will not be a “short-term spike,” Ullal says, but rather stretch out over multiple years.