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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 12 December 2018

US asset managers race to list bitcoin-trading funds

More than 10 proposals for such digital asset-based funds are currently before US regulators

Direxion Asset Management's plans to list bitcoin funds on Intercontinental Exchange's NYSE Arca are pending regulatory approval. Photographer: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg
Direxion Asset Management's plans to list bitcoin funds on Intercontinental Exchange's NYSE Arca are pending regulatory approval. Photographer: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg

US fund managers are ramping up efforts to tap into the fever surrounding digital assets, and the latest planned bitcoin products could deliver some head-turning and stomach-churning price movements if they come to market.

The new idea is to build “leveraged” and “inverse” funds that would rise - or fall - twice as fast as the price of bitcoin on a given day.

Direxion Asset Management plans to list such products on Intercontinental Exchange's NYSE Arca exchange if US securities regulators give the nod, according to a filing by the exchange this week.

In the filing, the exchange said the listing “will enhance competition among market participants, to the benefit of investors and the marketplace.”

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Bitcoin is a virtual asset that can be used to move money around the world quickly and with relative anonymity, without the need for a central authority, such as a bank or government.

Bitcoin is one of the wildest trades in the market today, delivering sharp gains and losses that defy explanation. Trading has been expensive and difficult, with brokerages offering limited access and specialist websites like Coinbase reporting regular outages. Top voices on markets from economist Robert Shiller to JPMorgan Chase & Co chief executive Jamie Dimon have warned people off buying bitcoin.

Yet asset managers have been racing to design more than 10 proposals for bitcoin funds that are currently before US regulators.

New ETFs could make access to bitcoin easier and, in the case of the Direxion product, mean bigger stakes for investors, with a 25 per cent gain or loss on one day doubled to 50 per cent.

So far the US Securities and Exchange Commission has declined or put on hold all the proposals.

A spokesman representing Direxion declined to comment on the latest filing as did a representative from NYSE.

Bitcoin gained nearly 12 per cent on Friday to $16,928 on the Bitstamp exchange.