In a world where disruption has become the norm, maybe the most recent rise of Bitcoin should not be that large of a surprise. What is interesting in the first full week of March is that Bitcoin was more or less within 1% of all-time highs. This is despite a rather unusual five-day sell-off in the price of gold.
One issue that may be helping to drive Bitcoin’s demand of late is that the Securities & Exchange Commission is scheduled to decide whether to approve a Bitcoin ETF trust. It goes without saying that a Bitcoin exchange traded fund would increase the public’s access to Bitcoin.
One consideration here is that increasing access to Bitcoin might be a knife that cuts both ways. Bitcoin rose to a level in the past week that was challenging $1,300. That means that one bitcoin is now worth more than one ounce of gold. Should one bitcoin be worth more than a one-ounce gold coin? There are two sides to this argument, and these two may have more in common than some people think.
Before betting that a Bitcoin ETF is an assured outcome, note that cryptocurrency and blockchain technology are not universally loved by the world. Bitcoin backers love it, but central bankers, tax authorities and many government officials not so much. The notion that cash can be used for less than legal transactions is one thing, but now the international crime world has used Bitcoin for payment demands after cyberattacks and the like.
What would make a Bitcoin ETF more unique is that you would effectively have a much more liquid access to the Bitcoin market. How the pricing activity would turn out is something that remains to be seen.
Gold and Bitcoin are both global and have no formal central banks representing them. There is no nation there to defend Bitcoin, no army to enforce a nation’s will and no regulatory body to go to if you lose your bitcoins.
With a maximum of 21 million bitcoins, the theoretical value of all bitcoins would be $27.3 billion at a price of $1,300. While this is a tiny value versus the world’s gold, the SPDR Gold Shares (NYSEMKT: GLD), the world’s largest and most liquid ETF for gold, had a total market value of $33.1 billion. The iShares Gold Trust (NYSEMKT: IAU) had $7.8 billion in assets as of March 3.
Creating a basket of investments, or a single-purpose ETF, obviously drives interest in a topic. At the end of the day, investors still have to know what they are investing in.
If the Winklevoss flavor of the Bitcoin ETF is approved, its ticker will be COIN.
24/7 Wall St. pointed out in January that Bitcoin Investment Trust had filed an S-1 form with the SEC regarding an initial public offering. That was for up to $500 million and was filed to list shares on the NYSE Arca under the symbol GBTC.
Before negating or dismissing a would-be Bitcoin ETF, just don’t forget that the New York Stock Exchange announced back in 2015 that it was launching the NYSE Bitcoin Index (NYXBT). This was called the first exchange-calculated and disseminated Bitcoin index.
Bitcoin is hard for many investors and consumers to understand. That being said, the reason (or reasons) that the public needs to own some gold can also be a tough sell.