NYSE Owner Says ‘We May Be Stupid’ for Waiting on Bitcoin Futures

  • Intercontinental’s rivals about to start offering contracts
  • Says no desire to price bitcoin from non-transparent markets
Bitcoin Futures 'Trustworthy' to Investors, Says Bandman

The owner of the New York Stock Exchange and some of the largest futures markets in the world said he may regret not creating a futures contract based on bitcoin as competitors CME Group Inc., Cboe Global Markets Inc. and Nasdaq Inc. have done.

“We may be stupid for not being first on that,” Jeff Sprecher, chief executive officer of Intercontinental Exchange Inc., said today at an investor conference sponsored by Goldman Sachs Group Inc. in New York. “I don’t have the answers, I wish I knew” how the investments will evolve, he said. “I don’t know what to make of cryptocurrencies.”

Cboe plans to start trading bitcoin futures on Dec. 10 while CME Group has set Dec. 18 as its start date. The moves may entice more professional traders and investors to join the cryptocurrency market by shifting transactions onto regulated exchanges. Bitcoin itself is currently bought and sold on platforms that are virtually unregulated, which has made some money managers uncomfortable with the market even as prices soar.

Sprecher questioned the existence of natural sellers of bitcoin futures, or investors who short the contract. Much of the wealth in the bitcoin world has been amassed by data miners in China and algorithmic traders, he said.

Shorting Strategy

“To short that, that means they’re deciding to exit” the market through a futures market, Sprecher said. He decided that may not be a good scenario for one of his exchanges.

Still, he said that Intercontinental Exchange hasn’t necessarily missed an opportunity. He said it’s unwise to rush to market with a product whose underlying price is based on an index of bitcoin exchanges that aren’t transparent.

The CME contract will settle in cash and use a daily price from the CME CF Bitcoin Reference Rate, which is supported by digital exchanges Bitstamp, GDAX, itBit and Kraken. Missing from that list is Gemini, one of the other large global exchanges, which struck a deal with Cboe for bitcoin pricing.

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