'Buy the Rumor, Buy the News,' on Spot BTC ETF, Says One Expert, While Another Warns on Coinbase

Pantera Capital’s Dan Morehead believes a spot bitcoin ETF will ‘fundamentally change access’ to bitcoin, while analysts at JPMorgan say it could be a threat to Coinbase in the medium term.

AccessTimeIconNov 21, 2023 at 5:56 p.m. UTC
Updated Jan 24, 2024 at 12:56 a.m. UTC
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  • The approval of a spot bitcoin ETF could have a huge impact on the crypto industry, more so than other previous milestones.
  • Analysts at JPMorgan say that the nearly 50% increase in the price of bitcoin over the last two months speaks to the potential.
  • Coinbase may be a long-term beneficiary but could face more immediate negative reprecussions.

With two months to go before the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) faces another set of deadlines to decide on a large number of applications to form spot bitcoin exchange traded-funds (ETFs), analysts are speculating on how approval of such vehicles would impact the crypto industry.

The sheer size of the applicants, which include the world's largest asset-management company BlackRock along with fellow giants like Fidelity and Franklin Templeton, means any approval would be far more influential than earlier milestones, such as the Chicago Mercantile Exchange introducing crypto futures in 2017 or Coinbase (COIN) going public on Nasdaq in 2021, said Pantera Capital managing partner Dan Morehead.

Those developments were “buy the rumor, sell the news” events, wrote Morehead Monday. “This time is different,” he said, well aware of the red warning flag typically raised upon utterance of that phrase. Neither of those events, he argued, had any impact on the actual demand for bitcoin. A BlackRock ETF, on the other hand, "fundamentally changes access to bitcoin … It will have a huge (positive) impact."

Analysts at JPMorgan concur, taking note of the nearly 50% increase in the price of bitcoin over the last two months as momentum seemingly built towards an ETF approval. The effect on specific players in the industry, however, could be less positive.

Repercussions for Coinbase

Although crypto exchange Coinbase (COIN) has made itself an irreplaceable part of the ETF race, functioning as proposed custodian and surveillance partner for many of the applicants, it could also be hurt as new investors enter the space, the JPMorgan analysts predict.

“Over the intermediate term, we see ETFs as a competitive threat to Coinbase,” they wrote in a note on Tuesday. New investors may well choose an ETF as an investment tool rather than exchanges like Coinbase, which would result in a slowdown in new accounts for the company.

“Given the initial draw of Bitcoin and Ethereum, we see many novice investors never going beyond these flagship tokens and thus never needing the services of a Coinbase,” the note said. The ETF market is also more transparent, more efficient and has lower execution costs, which could force Coinbase to lower fees, the analysts wrote.

While those factors may act as a drag on the exchange's growth, Coinbase nevertheless could benefit longer-term given its role in the spot bitcoin ETF business, specifically revenue coming from its involvement as a custodian and surveillance partner, according to the analysts.

Edited by Stephen Alpher.


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Helene Braun

Helene is a New York-based reporter covering Wall Street, the rise of the spot bitcoin ETFs and crypto exchanges. She is also the co-host of CoinDesk's Markets Daily show. Helene is a graduate of New York University's business and economic reporting program and has appeared on CBS News, YahooFinance and Nasdaq TradeTalks. She holds BTC and ETH.

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