A bitcoin exchange-traded fund (ETF) in the U.S. could be in the cards this year.
That's according to Eric Balchunas, an ETF analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence, Bloomberg reported on Tuesday.
"The institutional adoption of crypto is much greater," Balchunas said when asked why he thought this year was different to bitcoin's last bull run in 2017 and 2018. "You have the intense growth of ‘default’ crypto products like (Grayscale's Bitcoin Trust) which are not ideal for retail investors and the SEC (U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission) knows this."
ETFs operate in a similar fashion to mutual funds, but can be bought and sold throughout the daily trading period on exchanges like stocks. Grayscale is owned by CoinDesk's parent company, Digital Currency Group.
Balchunas also pointed to Canada, which approved its first bitcoin ETF in February. At the time, he noted that the approval in Canada was a "good sign" the U.S. would follow suit.
So far, Canadian financial regulators have approved four bitcoin ETFs. By comparison, the U.S. has yet to approve an ETF for any cryptocurrency despite multiple applications spanning a number of years.
"Canada has a history of being like six months to a year ahead of the U.S.," Balchunas said.
The Canadian ETFs have done well. Balchunas labeled the demand from investors as "insane." Within the first two days of trading of Purpose Investment’s ETF, Canada's first crypto ETF, the fund collected over $420 million in assets under management. All four ETFs have garnered $2.3 billion in assets in just three months, he added.
Balchunas also pointed to Gary Gensler being appointed as chairman of the SEC. He came to the SEC with experience in fintech and a presumably favorable stance toward crypto because he taught classes on crypto at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Still, Balchunas said that Gensler may have other priorities, given the Robinhood/GameStop debacle earlier this year, which could lead to a delay in a bitcoin ETF being approved. (Robinhood, a trading app, froze trading in GameStop's stock on Jan. 28, a move that drew the attention of regulators, who were concernd that the halt hurt the retail investos who typically use the app.)
But, Balchunas said, "the longer they delay, the more they will effectively play kingmaker as whoever is out first is instantly wealthy. So I think there's a risk of waiting too long, and I think they understand that."
According to Balchunas, there’s been a "shift" this year, meaning his team is "more optimistic of an approval than we’ve ever been."
See also: Bitcoin ETF From 3iQ and CoinShares Tops C$1B AUM
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