Well, that was a bit anticlimactic.
After two years of work and more than a year of hype and regulatory delays, the Bakkt bitcoin futures market had a lackluster first day of trading.
When the session closed at 22:00 UTC Monday, only two daily futures contracts and 71 monthly futures contracts had traded on the new platform, built by New York Stock Exchange parent company Intercontinental Exchange. The first daily contract didn’t even trade until 18 hours after the midnight launch.
Still, Adam White, the former Coinbase executive turned Bakkt COO, seemed optimistic.
He said in an interview with CNN’s Julia Chatterly that the ICE futures contracts’ launch meant “for the first time ever you have an end-to-end regulated marketplace for the price discovery of bitcoin.”
White hopes that the daily and futures contracts will lead price discovery, and while most of the attention is focused on the (thus far unrealized) potential for institutional money to enter the space through Bakkt, White opened the door for retail investors to enter the market, saying:
“Bakkt is really designed for the institutional trader. So this is a futures contract. That said, we expect this futures contract to trade through retail brokerages as well, so retail customers can trade this contract.”
He also noted that ICE has been working on Bakkt and the futures contract “for over two years.” (The project was first made public during summer 2018.)
Demand may be slow to ramp up, however.
In comments of his own to CNBC’s Closing Bell, new Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) Chairman Heath Tarbert also addressed the cryptocurrency space, noting that while demand for crypto derivatives products is growing, “the demand is far below [what] we see for other commodity classes.”
Bakkt first revealed it would offer traders a monthly contract in May, the same day it announced it had self-certified its contracts with the CFTC.
White noted Monday that Bakkt’s monthly contract extends out 12 months, meaning traders will likely be able to predict where bitcoin’s price might be across a year.
“That’s important not just for speculators but the actual businesses relying on the price of bitcoin – the miners are the companies that mine bitcoin – want to hedge their risk so we think this contract is the perfect fit for them,” he explained.
The contracts might also help predict bitcoin’s price movement in the months leading up to its next halvening – the quadrennial event where the number of bitcoin generated every 10 minutes is halved – he said, adding:
“With that, you see a diminishing supply if the demand stays the same a lot of times you’ll see the price increase. We think this is an important part of the futures contract, to help businesses discover what the fair market value of bitcoin is going to be through events like that.”
The next bitcoin halving is expected around May 2020.
Bakkt’s monthly and daily contracts each settled at a hair under $9,900, well above spot market prices, according to CoinDesk’s bitcoin price index.
Adam White image via CoinDesk archives