Futures Launch Weighed on Bitcoin's Price, Say Fed Researchers

Researchers from the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank believe that the launch of bitcoin futures played a role in bitcoin's recent price slump.

AccessTimeIconMay 7, 2018 at 8:50 p.m. UTC
Updated Sep 13, 2021 at 7:55 a.m. UTC

Researchers from the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank's San Francisco division believe that the launch of bitcoin futures on several marketplaces in the U.S. last December played a role in a subsequent slump in the cryptocurrency's price.

According to a research paper published on Monday, the authors  – including three researchers from the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco as well as a finance professor from Stanford University – believe bitcoin's recent price trend is somewhat similar to how the housing bubble developed in the U.S. during the 2000s.

And the introduction of bitcoin-related derivatives played a part in that trend, the authors wrote.

As previously reported by CoinDesk, the Cboe and CME Group moved their bitcoin futures products to the market near the end of the year after obtaining approval from the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC). It was around this time that the price of bitcoin nearly hit $20,000 after surging throughout that year, only to fall close to $6,000 by the end of the first week of February.

Citing data and calculations conducted through their research, the Fed paper's authors argue that the "rapid rise of the price of bitcoin and its decline following [the] issuance of futures on the CME is consistent with pricing dynamics suggested elsewhere in financial theory."

Such pricing dynamics, as the researchers explained, refer to a trend where demand for a financial instrument is initially driven by optimists who push up the price until the point where the market introduces a mechanism that allows pessimists to invest reversely.

The researchers argued:

"And until December 17, those investors [optimists] were right: As with a self-fulfilling prophecy, optimists’ demand pushed the price of bitcoin up, energizing more people to join in and keep pushing up the price. The pessimists, however, had no mechanism available to put money behind their belief that the bitcoin price would collapse. So they were left to wait for their 'I told you so' moment."

That said, such trends may not continue indefinitely, as the authors further suggested.

As the bitcoin mining process goes on and fewer coins become available (as a result of the scheduled halving of the network subsidy, now pegged at 12.5 BTC per block), the authors argue that the transactional function of bitcoin as a payment method could play a leading role in driving its value as "speculative dynamics disappear."

Read the full Fed paper below:

FedBTCPaper by CoinDesk on Scribd

U.S. dollar image via CoinDesk


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