It’s Too Soon to Write Off Bakkt, Wall Street Analyst Tells ICE Investors

Nathan DiCamillo
Oct 2, 2019 at 19:05 UTC
Updated Oct 4, 2019 at 23:23 UTC

It’s too soon to write off Bakkt, despite the bitcoin futures market’s disappointingly slow start, analysts at Oppenheimer & Co. said.

In an Oct. 1 research note, the equity research firm encourages investors to “not get upset” about the lackluster trading volume of Bakkt. For one thing, its parent company, Intercontinental Exchange, has plenty of other electronification initiatives in fixed income analytics and trading, mortgages and exchange-traded funds (ETFs), wrote Oppenheimer senior analyst Own Lau and managing director Chris Kotowski.

Bakkt’s average daily futures volume was 125 contracts, each for one bitcoin, for the first five days of trading, the analysts noted. This pales in comparison to the 2017 debut of bitcoin futures on CBOE, where the average volume was 4,000 contracts daily in the first month, and at CME, where it was 500 contracts for 5 bitcoin each, totaling 2,500 bitcoin daily.

Chart via Oppenheimer research note

CME reached out to CoinDesk to dispute Oppenheimer’s numbers, stating that the futures were launched on Dec. 18, 2017 and that CME’s contracts only traded for nine days, whereas the Oppenheimer research assumes that it traded for 20 days. This would mean that CME’s 9,503 total futures contracts traded during that month would have translated to an average daily trading volume of 1,056 contracts or 5,280 bitcoin.

Unlike those two Chicago exchanges’ bitcoin futures, which are essentially side-bets on the direction of the underlying asset’s price paid out in cash, Bakkt’s are settled in actual bitcoin.

“At this point, we are not going to judge whether Bakkt’s bitcoin futures will be successful or not, or whether the trading volume of Bakkt’s bitcoin futures will increase in the future,” the note says. “We acknowledge that a massive adoption of bitcoin, or any other digital asset, outside of crypto enthusiasts has a long way to go, but also don’t discount that the initial bitcoin futures trading volume introduced by Bakkt didn’t seem to meet the original expectation.”

The note also points out that since the first month CBOE’s average daily volume has been declining, leading it to stop listing bitcoin futures in June of this year, while CME’s average daily volume has been increasing, to 7,000 in July.

Bitcoin might not be the digital coin that gains mass adoption, the analysts went on, and CME and ICE are prepared for the emergence of digital assets with the right infrastructure in place. The research firm pointed to CME’s plans to release bitcoin options in Q1 as proof that there is still interest from institutions in these alternative financial instruments.

Oppenheimer Research Note o… by CoinDesk on Scribd

ICE chairman and CEO Jeffrey Sprecher image via CoinDesk archives.

UPDATE (Oct 3, 23:19 UTC): This article has been updated to reflect that CME disputed Oppenheimer’s number of average daily futures traded by the firm in the first month of the product’s launch.