Cryptocurrency mania: and now, the bitcoin futures

Cryptocurrency mania: and now, the bitcoin futures
By Natalie Huet with Reuters
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Investors can now bet on the rise or fall of the cryptocurrency using bitcoin futures, which have started trading on a major regulated exchange.


Investors can now bet on whether bitcoin prices will rise or fall without even owning the cryptocurrency.

That's if they buy bitcoin futures, which have started trading on the Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE) and surged almost 22 percent in their market debut on Sunday night (Dec. 10).

Although bitcoin futures were already offered on some unregulated cryptocurrency exchanges outside the United States, the CBOE launch marked the first time investors could get exposure to the market via a mainstream regulated exchange.

Central bankers, economists and other critics of bitcoin have been sounding the alarm over its soaring price and other risks, such as whether the cryptocurrency might be used for money laundering.

"I continue to think we're dealing with a bubble," said Robert Halver, Head of Capital Markets Analysis at Baader Bank

"The technology behind it is fantastic, but bitcoin will never become a payment unit. So every investor with a speculative bend is free to trade with bitcoin but he or she should never forget there was a point when this new market collapsed. That's what we'll see with bitcoin sooner or later, even if it takes a while."

The price of bitcoin has soared by more than 1,500 percent since the beginning of the year, with each unit of the cryptocurrency now worth more than 13,000 euros.

Bitcoin allows for direct online payments where banks are no longer the middle man - it's the community of users that does the security checks using the blockchain, a digital ledger of transactions. Some say that change in itself deserves credit.

"The reality is that the technology behind it, which is the blockchain, is here to stay," said Daniele Bianchi, professor of finance at Warwick Business School.

"If I can make a comparison, it is more like the dot-com bubble. Even after the bubble burst, the internet is still there - we have Facebook and Google, so the technology behind it is here to stay."

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