Bitcoin’s Wall Street Debut Ends in Tears for Futures Traders, Leads to $83M Liquidations

Bitcoin ETFs clocked up some $4.6 billion in volumes on their first day, but market volatility hit futures speculators as prices whipsawed.

AccessTimeIconJan 12, 2024 at 6:39 a.m. UTC
Updated Mar 8, 2024 at 7:53 p.m. UTC

The debut of bitcoin (BTC) exchange-traded funds (ETFs) in the U.S. did not turn out to be an outright sell-the-news event as some expected but still impacted $80 million in both long and short bitcoin futures bets as prices rose rapidly and retreated.

Shortly after the first ETFs started trading, bitcoin prices climbed to over $49,000 briefly – igniting bullish sentiment and levered bets amid the sudden spike. That drove prices of various majors, such as ether (ETH) and Solana’s SOL, up as much as 10% within hours.

However, bitcoin reversed course as the initial euphoria wore off, and market observers stated the hundreds of millions in volumes driven by Grayscale’s bitcoin ETF were likely driven by sellers.

Prices fell to as low as $45,700, or the level before the ETFs started to trade, and have not broken above the $47,000 mark since late Thursday.

The Grayscale bitcoin ETF is an uplisting of Grayscale’s now-defunct bitcoin trust product – which held a certain amount of spot bitcoin in each share and had traded at a holdings-to-share value discount for all of 2023.

Such a price whipsaw caused both long and short bitcoin futures traders to get liquidated amid the confusing price action. Nearly $40 million worth of bitcoin in either direction was impacted for a total of $83 million, with the most on the crypto exchange Binance.

Bitcoin and majors futures liquidations. (Coinglass)
Bitcoin and majors futures liquidations. (Coinglass)

A slide in bitcoin prompted similar price action in other futures products, amounting to over $230 million in liquidation losses – meaning traders lost a significant amount even as the overall market remained flat over the past 24 hours.

Liquidation refers to when an exchange forcefully closes a trader’s leveraged position due to a partial or total loss of the trader’s initial margin. It happens when a trader is unable to meet the margin requirements for a leveraged position (fails to have sufficient funds to keep the trade open).

Edited by Parikshit Mishra.


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Shaurya Malwa

Shaurya is the Deputy Managing Editor for the Data & Tokens team, focusing on decentralized finance, markets, on-chain data, and governance across all major and minor blockchains.

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