As I write this on Saturday morning, October 16, 2021, it appears that the first U.S. Bitcoin ETF will begin trading in the next few days.  The ProShares Trust will be the issuer.  Of course, Canada already has crypto exchange-traded funds, including QBTC and QETH from 3iQ, and the Purpose Bitcoin ETF, so it’s nice to see the Americans finally catching up.

Is this good news?  On the surface, yes.  Many investors want exposure to crypto, but they don’t want the hassle of buying Bitcoin directly, on a crypto exchange and holding their own coins, so having access to an ETF makes it easy to invest in crypto.  More investors increase the price, so that’s good for everyone who already holds Bitcoin.

But, there is a problem.

The SEC appears sent to approve futures-based ETFs, not spot ETFs.  A futures-based ETF does not buy Bitcoin and hold it; they buy futures contracts.

Huh?

The Sprott Physical Uranium Trust buys actual uranium and holds it.  That’s how gold and silver ETFs work as well.  That’s how a stock ETF works.  If I want to invest in high-tech companies, I can buy a technology ETF, that actually owns technology shares.

Of course you can’t buy physical Bitcoin, because you can’t hold it in your hand, but you can buy spot Bitcoin, and hold the digital coins.

So why is the SEC approving futures-based ETFs, but not spot-based ETFs like we have in Canada?

Money.

The SEC does not exist to protect the small investor.  They exist to help the rich get richer.  Think about it:

With a spot ETF, the creator buys Bitcoin (or Ethereum, or whatever) and holds it.  They need to have adequate security protocols, but otherwise, it’s quite simple.  Set it and forget it.

With a futures ETF, the lawyers get paid to set up the ETF, the managers get paid to manage it (because futures expire so unlike Bitcoin itself which doesn’t expire, futures need to be rolled over and traded, so more work equals higher management fees).

But wait, there’s more!

The hedge funds now have an arbitrage opportunity.  Furtures contracts trade at either a premium or discount to spot, so the hedgies can buy/sell the futures and buy/sell the underlying asset, and make a profit on the difference.

This also encourages greater levels of market manipulation.  As we have observed in the “paper” gold market, traders can drive the price up and down to suit their needs.  That manipulation is more difficult when dealing in the underlying commodity.

If you were to ask the SEC why they are going the futures route they would say “the futures market is already regulated, Bitcoin isn’t, so it’s safer to offer futures based products.”  That’s silly.  In Canada we figured out how to regulate spot ETFs, so I’m sure the Americans could also figure it out, but they aren’t, because the Big Boyz can make more money with a futures-based system.

The problem is that futures do not exactly spot, and with the higher fees, investors will lose.

If I buy $1,000 worth of Bitcoin on a crypto exchange, I pay a tiny fee, but receive very close to $1,000 worth of Bitcoin.

If I invest $1,000 in a Bitcoin ETF, the fund manager gets a fee.  (For example, the Purpose Bitcoin ETF in Canada has a Management Expense Ratio of up to 1.5%).  So, every year, my $1,000 investment drops by $15 (assuming the underlying asset price remains the same).  But it’s not just the fee; there is a spread between the futures and the spot price, so the ETF does not exactly track the price of the underlying asset.

This means that if Bitcoin was worth $60,000 when I bought the ETF, and a year later it’s worth $100,000, it is unlikely that my shares in the ETF will be worth $100,000.  They will likely be worth at least $1,500 less (for the management fee), and likely even lower than that due to the imprecise futures tracking.

So am I saying you should not buy ETFs?

No, but I am saying you should consider your options.

If you want to invest in crypto in your RRSP or TFSA (or equivalent tax-advantaged product in the USA) then your only choice is to buy an ETF that is eligible for inclusion in an RRSP or TFSA.

If you are a big corporation or pension fund that is only permitted to invest in publically traded securities, again, you only have one choice.

If you don’t want the “hassle” of trading on a crypto exchange and taking custody of your coins, again, an ETF is a good option.

Custody of your coins

A word on trading and custody: to buy a stock, you click a button on your computer and you are done.  To trade crypto on an exchange, it’s more complicated.  You have to set up an account, which involves confirming your identity and other procedures.  If you are a corporation and you want to trade significant amounts, that will take time.  You then buy your coins, and to be safe, you should “self-custody.”  That means you have your own “wallet.”  You transfer your coins from the exchange to your wallet, which is then disconnected from the internet so it can’t be hacked.  You hold the private keys to the wallet.  “Not your keys, not your coins” as they say.  That is the safest and most secure option, but it is extra work, so I understand why many people don’t want to be bothered.

My hope is that futures ETFs are the first step, soon to be followed by spot ETFs, which will create significant demand for Bitcoin and other cryptos.

What’s next for Bitcoin?

As I write this Bitcoin is trading at $61,500 USD, very close to its all-time high of around $65,000 set in April.  I assume it is now in a zone of significant resistance, so a pullback to $55,000 or lower is likely before it makes the final push to a record high.

I continue to expect that Bitcoin will trade at $100,000 USD before the end of 2021, but it will be a bumpy ride.

So buy coins, or ETFs, or whatever strikes your fancy.

Bitcoin leads the charge.  It runs first.  Next will be the number two crypto, Ether, which will run over the next few months, so most of my new buying will go to Ether.  Once it has its run the speculators will start pumping the altcoins, but that is a very risky game, so only gamble with funds you are prepared to lose.

Those are my thoughts.  Q4 is generally good for Bitcoin, so enjoy the ride.

Bitcoin dropped 56% in 69 days between April 14 and June 22.

So, if you bought Bitcoin at the peak on April 14, you are down 15% as of today.

But Bitcoin has bounced back up 39% in the last 17 days.  What does that tell us?  Bitcoin is volatile.

Since January 1 Bitcoin is up 94%.

In the last 12 months, it’s up 425%.

Time frame matters.  Bitcoin can drop 56%, or more, in a short period of time, so it is very risky, and is not for “widows, widowers and orphans.”  But, given past history, there are two ways to play it:

First, have a long time frame.  You can get “rekt” in a three-month period, but over a three-year period, Bitcoin has never had a negative return.  The long-term play is safer.  Not safe, but safer.

Second, DCA.  You aren’t smart enough to pick the bottom or top, so the prudent play is Dollar Cost Averaging.  If you have $100 every week to invest, buy $100 of Bitcoin every week.  Some weeks you will get more Bitcoin than others, but you will continually increase your stack.

For the record, I do NOT mindlessly DCA.  I DCA when Bitcoin is below its 20-week moving average, or only a few points above it, and as it becomes extended I hold.  If I’m smart, as it gets very extended, I sell.  We’ll see if I’m smart later this year.

I continue to believe we will see Bitcoin at $100,000 before the end of 2021.  It appears poised for blast off now.  We shall see.

I also have a position in Ethereum, and very small positions in altcoins (ADA and DOT).  Altcoins are very risky, so those investments are with funds I’m not afraid to lose.

Most of my holdings are through QBTC and QETH, because it’s easier then holding the coins directly.

I expect an American ETF to receive approval this month, and that will likely signal “blast off”, so now is the time to accumulate your stack.

Or not, I could be completely wrong.  We shall see.

Enjoy the ride, and Happy Thanksgiving.

 

SPY Failure, Bitcoin Winner

October 2, 2021

S&P 500 Two weeks ago I presented my Dubious Speculation on the S&P 500 Index.  I said that it appears to bottom around the 17th of the month, and then go on to new highs.  The strategy was simple: buy at the lows, sell at the highs. As you can see from the updated chart, […]

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Dubious Speculation: The Result

September 25, 2021

Last week I presented my dubious speculation on how the market would play out.  Specifically, I showed this chart: I said: I have marked on the chart the low points for the month, which occurred on May 19, June 18, July 19, August 19, and September 17 (presumably because September 19 is a Sunday).  If […]

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Dubious Speculation

September 18, 2021

Before we get to some dubious speculation, a comment about the market in general: Kinda manipulated, eh? I have marked on the chart the low points for the month, which occurred on May 19, June 18, July 19, August 19, and September 17 (presumably because September 19 is a Sunday).  If the last four months […]

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Uranium and Bitcoin

September 11, 2021

I haven’t mentioned the word “uranium” on this website in over 10 years.  A decade.  I lost spoke of uranium in my post on March 14, 2011: Cameco: Why I Started Buying Uranium Stocks Today.  (As a side note, it’s surprising that I have recorded my thoughts for well over 10 years).  What’s changed over […]

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The Fight for $50,000

September 4, 2021

As I write this, just before 8:00 am on Saturday morning, September 4, Bitcoin is trading around $50,000 USD. Looking back to the start of the year, there is a clear area of support and resistance in the $46,000 to $52,000 range, which leads to the obvious question: which way will Bitcoin break?  On March […]

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Lots of Bitcoin Charts

August 28, 2021

The general stock market keeps hitting new highs, which is nice, so hopefully you have most of your money in stocks that are going up.  For example, I own ZEB.TO, a fund that holds the six largest Canadian banks, and it’s done great, and pays a dividend, but there’s not much to say about that, […]

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September Surprise Incoming?

August 21, 2021

I realize it is only August 21, so perhaps it is premature to be pondering a “September surprise”, but historically the months of September and October are often months where the Big Crash occurs, so now is the time to ponder that possibility. This is true of stocks, but is also true for commodities, like […]

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Stawks at Record Highs

August 13, 2021

What more can I say?  The Delta variant is raging, unemployment remains high, debt levels are soaring, but stonks are at record highs! All is good! No worries! We’ve got a federal election coming up in Canada in September, the Natural Ruling Party is likely to be re-elected to a majority government, at which point […]

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