SEC pushes back decision to open up options trading on spot Bitcoin ETFs

The United States Securities and Exchange Commission has postponed its decision on whether to approve options trading on spot Bitcoin (BTC) exchange-traded funds (ETFs) — which could open the door for more institutional capital into Bitcoin.

In a March 6 filing, the SEC extended its time to respond to Cboe Exchange and the Miami International Securities Exchange on their bids to offer options on Bitcoin ETFs.

It also delayed deciding on Nasdaq’s bid to offer options on BlackRock’s iShares Bitcoin Trust (IBIT), saying the delay ensures it has “sufficient time to consider” its request.

The exchanges all filed to list Bitcoin ETF options on Jan. 25 and the SEC faced its first decision deadline on March 10, as U.S. securities laws give it 45 days to decide or defer a decision on the matter.

Its deferral gives the agency another 45 days — its maximum 90 days under the law — to come to a final decision which the SEC noted was April 24.

A highlighted excerpt of the SEC’s filing which cites needing “sufficient time” to decide on allowing Bitcoin ETF options trading. Source: SEC

Options are derivative products that give traders leverage and let them make directional bets on the market.

If a trader thought Bitcoin’s price would rise, they could pay a premium, buy a “call option” and agree to buy 1 BTC at today’s price in a month’s time while putting down less money than would be needed to buy 1 BTC.

If Bitcoin rises over the month, the trader could use their option, buy Bitcoin at the lower price and maybe sell it for a profit. If it sinks, they’d likely just let the contract expire and forfeit the premium paid.

Grayscale CEO Michael Sonnenshein called for the approval of options for Bitcoin ETFs last month, claiming they “contribute to a robust and healthy market.”

VettaFi analyst Dave Nadig told CNBC in January that once Bitcoin ETF options markets are live, “you’re going to start seeing all sorts of hedge fund players in the space.”

Nagid said those who weren’t “speculating on crypto directly in the crypto ecosystem are now going to have some to play with.”

Related: CFTC chair warns of conflict with SEC over Prometheum’s ETH play

The SEC approved ten spot Bitcoin ETFs to start trading on Jan. 11 — the final day on which it had to decide on approval after months of delaying them.

Traders have brimmed the ETFs with cash — nine of the new ETFs, excluding Grayscale’s, which was converted to an ETF, had $25.87 billion in assets under management, according to March 6 BitMEX Research data.

The SEC is now having to decide on seven spot Ether (ETH) ETFs. Analysts predict the agency is holding back until May 23 to approve them all on the deadline for VanEck’s application.

Multiple leveraged Bitcoin ETFs are before the SEC with asset manager Direxion filing for five inverse and long spot Bitcoin ETFs in January alongside ProShares’ five leveraged Bitcoin funds and REX Shares’ six leveraged ETFs.

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