The next big short: Hedge funds Ready to Exchange against bitcoin

A bitcoin large short is building.

The planned launch of bitcoin futures contracts at CME Group Inc., Cboe Global Markets Inc. and Nasdaq Inc. will make it far easier to bet on a decline. Hedge funds, which have mostly remained on the sidelines, are awaiting the Chicago Mercantile Exchange’s futures market to start to get a fresh chance to wager against the cryptocurrency, based on more than a half dozen people trading the resources.

“The stocks decrease the frictions of moving short more than they do of going long, so it is probably net metering,” said Craig Pirrong, a business professor at the University of Houston. “Having this instrument which makes it easier to brief might keep the bitcoin cost a bit closer to reality.”

Bitcoin has gained countless percentage since it began trading in 2010. An investment of $1 in the start would be valued at more than $1.4 million. A dollar spent in the Samp;P 500 stock index for the same period would now be worth less than $4 including reinvested dividends.

Some see the bitcoin marketplace as “one of the largest shorting opportunities,” stated Lou Kerner, a partner at Flight VC who invests in the cryptocurrency. “You have a good deal of zealotry, and a great deal of people, including me, who believe it is the best thing to ever happen in the history of humankind. You have a good deal of individuals who think it is a bubble and a Ponzi scheme. It turns out both of them can not be right.”

Bitcoin has been particularly volatile lately, plunging nearly 20 percent in less than 90 minutes on Nov. 29, to $9,009 after briefly topping $11,000. The price has since recovered, and has been trading at more than $11,332.01 at 11:42 a.m. in New York on Monday, a 3.9 per-cent jump since Friday.

CME’s contracts are set to debut on Dec. 18. Nasdaq is planning to provide futures in 2018, according to a person familiar with the matter, while Cboe has not declared a start date. Cantor Fitzgerald LP’s Cantor Exchange is developing a bitcoin derivative, and startup LedgerX offers options.

Ari Paul, co-founder of hedge fund BlockTower Capital and former portfolio manager in the University of Chicago endowment, said people are mistaken when they believe the famously volatile cryptocurrency is a straightforward brief.

“While some dealers are eager to have the ability to brief bitcoin and will do so when the stocks are launched, there’s a far greater quantity of money eagerly anticipating the futures as a car to go long,” Paul explained.

‘Small Potatoes’

There are limited ways to brief bitcoin now, said Michael Moro, chief executive officer of Genesis Global Trading. The cryptocurrency trading platform has lent about $20 million to investors to take bearish positions, which have been largely to hedge present bets, he said. Businesses like GDAX, BitMEX and Bitfinex allow investors to get assets on margin for brief periods.

“With the present exchanges, nobody can get in and brief $1-million,” Mr. Moro said. “It’s really little potatoes on which you can do now. The CME men open a new frontier.”

Bitcoin’s 90-per-cent surge this season has attracted a selection of responses from Wall Street. JPMorgan Chase am Co.. CEO Jamie Dimon famously known as the cryptocurrency “a fraud,” while bulls including Thomas Lee in Fundstrat Global Advisors and hedge fund manager Michael Novogratz have predicted greater climbs.

The ability to short the money is “an important part of the ecosystem,” said Mr. Novogratz, who recently started to increase $500-million to invest in cryptocurrencies. Mr. Novogratz, a bitcoin believer in the long run, has said brief trades can be insecure.

“There is a good deal of froth,” he said in a cryptocurrency conference last week in New York. “This will be the biggest bubble of our lifetimes.”

Short sellers basically borrow a safety, betting that the price will fall and they could pocket the difference when they return the holding. The plan carries risks. Borrowing bitcoin can be hard, and cost swings abrupt, stated Moro of Genesis.

“The idea is that this is such a volatile market that it is going to scare lots of investors off,” said Kerner of Flight VC.

Investors might get stung like people who bet against the internet bubble in the late 1990s, said Aaron Brown, a former managing director at AQR Capital Management who invests in the cryptocurrency.

“Individuals who shorted the net in 1998 were correct, but they went bankrupt before they could collect any winnings,” Mr. Brown said. “One of the issues with it, if you think it is a bubble or a Ponzi scheme or anything, it can go on for quite a long time.”

Courtesy: The Globe And Mail

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