By Ryan Vlastelica for MarketWatch.com.
The price of bitcoin rose on Monday, paring much of a late-Friday drop that came after the Securities and Exchange Commission nixed a proposed rule change that would have cleared the way for the first exchange-traded fund to track the digital currency.
Analysts said approval of a bitcoin fund appeared unlikely in the near term—two similar proposals will be decided upon in coming months—but that seemed of little concern to bitcoin investors, who have seen prices more than double over the past year.
The price of a single bitcoin rose 0.7% to $1,237.81 on Monday, according to CoinDesk. While it remains about 4% below where it traded before the SEC’s announcement—which was near a record high for the cryptocurrency—it is up about 14% from its nadir in the immediate wake of rejection of the Winklevoss Bitcoin Trust.
The nature of the SEC’s rejection of the Wiklevoss ETF—focusing on bitcoin itself, rather than the structure of the proposed fund—suggests other pending bitcoin ETF proposals could face major hurdles to success.
The next test won’t come for several months. In January, the New York Stock Exchange filed a proposed rule change with the SEC to allow the Grayscale Bitcoin Trust GBTC, -0.93% to trade on its ETF exchange, NYSE Arca. That ruling will come Sept. 22.
“The SEC made a strong statement and it listed its concerns, and I thought it did a very good job of explaining its rationale,” said Phil Bak, the former head of ETF listings at the New York Stock Exchange. “Bitcoin will mature as an investment over the coming years, but I don’t think we’ll see a change in how the SEC views it over that time. For the other firms trying to bring one to market, I’m trying to think of a nice way to say, ‘no chance in hell’ for their approval.”
Bitcoin investors had been eagerly awaiting the SEC’s decision, pushing shares higher in the run-up to the announcement. An SEC-sanctioned bitcoin ETF would have gone a long way to legitimizing the digital currency, and a fund would have given institutional investors an avenue to purchase it through, both of which could have sent the price soaring. Spencer Bogart, a bitcoin analyst at boutique investment bank Needham & Co., estimates that the digital currency could have seen an influx of $300 million in the first week alone if the ETF was approved. Bitcoin presently has a market capitalization of around $20 billion, according to CoinDesk.
In an emailed statement, Tyler Winklevoss said they remained “optimistic and committed” to bringing the fund to market, and that they were “determined to see it through.” Tyler, along with his twin brother Cameron, run Winklevoss Capital as well as Gemini, a bitcoin exchange. The two cut a relatively high profile on Wall Street, given their relationship with social-media giant Facebook Inc. FB, +0.58%
However, it was unclear what changes would have been necessary for the SEC to approve the fund.
“They can obviously try again, and SEC membership continually changes, but getting rejected is usually a stop, or at least cause for a pause. I don’t know what the next steps would be,” said Todd Rosenbluth, director of ETF and mutual fund research at CFRA.
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Another firm, SolidX, is also vying to bring the first bitcoin ETF to market, but Grayscale may have an edge given how its trust already trades on over-the-counter markets.
However, that may not be enough to put it over the top and onto the trading floor.
“The SEC highlighted the unregulated market for bitcoin, and I don’t think the filers could do anything to change that,” Rosenbluth said.