Hong Kong's Incoming Spot Bitcoin ETFs Could Be 'Big Deal.' Here's What Analysts Say

Massive demand for a China-listed gold ETF sent its premium soaring to 30% earlier this week.

AccessTimeIconApr 10, 2024 at 8:13 p.m. UTC
Updated Apr 11, 2024 at 3:19 p.m. UTC
  • Hong Kong regulators will likely approve spot bitcoin ETFs as early as next week, Reuters reported Wednesday.
  • The funds could offer an alternative to Chinese investors reluctant to invest in domestic real estate and stocks, one observer noted.
  • "The market should not expect flows anywhere near the size of U.S. spot ETF flows," said a K33 analyst.

Heightened anticipation for spot-based bitcoin ETFs in the U.S. and the eventual inflows supercharged bitcoin's run-up to new all-time highs, and now Hong Kong regulators reportedly are inching closer to approving similar funds, news that thus far has been mostly unnoticed in crypto circles.

These vehicles, however, could open the floodgates for Chinese investors looking for a new haven next to gold and overseas real estate and stocks in which to store their wealth.

"[They] will be a big deal," Noelle Acheson, macro analyst and author of Crypto Is Macro Now newsletter, said in an email interview with CoinDesk. "It's not just for the access to hedge funds and family offices based in the region; it's also because of the access it gives to mainland investors."

Chinese investors are reluctant to invest in domestic real estate and stocks given the well-documented troubles of the country's housing market, construction sector and equities. That, in turn, has spurred interest in alternative assets like gold, Acheson explained. Notably, trading with a gold-linked ETF in China was halted earlier this week after its price premium reached 30% as investors piled into the asset trading at record high prices.

In similar fashion, there could be "a significant flow of funds into BTC," Acheson said, adding that the investment case for the largest cryptocurrency will become even more prevalent if concerns about further devaluation of the yuan ramp up.

"Chinese authorities most likely realize that a significant portion of their citizens will be diversifying into hard assets whether approved or not, and would probably prefer that they be in assets not related to the U.S. economy," Acheson noted.

Markus Thielen, founder of Singapore-based analytics firm 10x Research, said that the ETFs could raise the probability of a Chinese retail buying frenzy similar to the 2013 bull market. Bitcoin's popularity exploded in the country that year, driving the price to over $1,000 from only $10 in January., The rally didn't end until China's government banned financial institutions from trading the asset in December.

"70% of Chinese own property and as the market has recently repriced lower together with the stock market, there are not many alternatives," Thielen said. "Bitcoin is one."

While the approval of ETFs could be a further positive catalyst for bitcoin, the market should not expect flows anywhere near the size seen by the U.S. spot funds, said Vetle Lunde, senior analyst at K33 Research.

The two futures-based bitcoin ETFs listed in Hong Kong have seen "solid" growth this year more than doubling their assets in BTC terms, he noted, but their combined size is less than 2,000 BTC, or just 2% of the U.S.-listed futures ETFs.

"The small size of HK futures ETFs compared to the U.S. is, in our opinion, a signal to the market that HK ETFs should see less exuberant flows than those witnessed in the U.S.," Lunde said.

Edited by Stephen Alpher.


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Krisztian  Sandor

Krisztian Sandor is a reporter on the U.S. markets team focusing on stablecoins and institutional investment. He holds BTC and ETH.