- Bitcoin Futures Start With a Bang as 25% Rally Triggers Halts
Bitcoin landed on Wall Street with a bang.
Futures on the world’s most popular cryptocurrency surged as much as 25 percent during their debut session on Cboe Global Markets Inc.’s exchange, triggering two temporary trading halts meant to cool volatility. Dealers said initial volumes exceeded expectations, while traffic on Cboe’s website was so strong that it caused delays and outages. The exchange said all its trading systems were normal.
“It was pretty easy to trade,” Joe Van Hecke, managing partner at Chicago-based Grace Hall Trading LLC, said in a telephone interview from Charlotte, North Carolina. “I think you’ll see a robust market as time plays out.”
The launch of futures traded on a regulated exchange is a watershed for bitcoin — testing infrastructure that will make it easier for legions of professional traders and mainstream investors to bet on the cryptocurrency’s rise or fall, potentially helping to steer its price. Until now, trading in bitcoin was driven mainly by individual investors who were willing to risk buying on mostly unregulated markets. Some users of those little-policed venues have been targeted by hackers who’ve stolen digital tokens.
Bitcoin futures expiring in January were priced at $17,780 as of 12:57 p.m. Hong Kong time, up from an opening level of $15,000. About 2,300 contracts changed hands.
The first trading halt came about 2 1/2 hours after the session began, while the second one triggered after four hours. Cboe imposes circuit breakers to curb volatility, halting transactions for two minutes if prices rise or fall 10 percent, and for five minutes at 20 percent. Trading will stop for at least five minutes if the rally extends to 30 percent, Cboe said in a notice on its website.
Bitcoin last changed hands at $16,318, up about 4.3 percent since late Friday, according to the composite price on Bloomberg.
“So far, looking at the contract volume traded, we believe that there is a decent demand and this is driving up the price of bitcoin,” said Naeem Aslam, chief market analyst at TF Global Markets in London. “Prices are going higher because of the increase in confidence.”
CME Group Inc.’s exchange is set to start offering similar futures next week.
Once the markets are better established, professional traders will arbitrage between the Cboe and CME futures and bitcoin itself, improving pricing efficiency, Aslam said.
“In the future, traders will also start arbitraging and speculation will go in another higher gear,” Aslam said.
At this point, some people who would like to trade futures are having a hard time accessing the market because not all brokers are supporting it initially, said Garrett See, chief executive officer of DV Chain, a sister company of trading firm DV Trading. Participation may also be limited because of higher capital requirements and tighter risk limits, See said.
Being on the sidelines has been painful. This year alone, bitcoin is up more than 1,600 percent. The surge has been driven largely by demand from individual investors, even as technical obstacles kept out big money managers like mutual funds.
Derivatives trading is the culmination of a wild year for bitcoin, which captured imaginations and investment around the world, propelled by its stratospheric gains and its anti-establishment mission as a currency without the backing of a government or a central bank. The derivatives contracts should thrust bitcoin more squarely into the realm of regulators, banks and institutional investors.
Both Cboe and CME on Dec. 1 got permission to offer the contracts after pledging to the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission that the products don’t run afoul of the law, in a process called self-certification.
Not everyone is convinced it’s a good idea. On Dec. 6, the Futures Industry Association — a group of major banks, brokers and traders — said the contracts were rushed without enough consideration of the risks. Last month, Thomas Peterffy, the billionaire chairman of Interactive Brokers Group Inc., wrote an open letter to CFTC Chairman J. Christopher Giancarlo, arguing that bitcoin’s large price swings mean its futures contracts shouldn’t be allowed on platforms that clear other derivatives.
Still, Interactive Brokers is offering its customers access to the futures, though with greater restrictions. They won’t be able to go short — betting that prices will decline — and Interactive’s margin requirement, or how much investors have to set aside as collateral, will be at least 50 percent. That’s higher than either Cboe’s or CME’s margin requirements.
Cboe’s futures are cash-settled and based on the Gemini auction price for bitcoin in U.S. dollars. Margins for the contracts, which will be cleared by Options Clearing Corp., will be at 40 percent or higher.
Oil Prices Recover Slightly Amidst Demand Concerns in U.S. and China
Oil Prices Continue Slide as Market Skepticism Grows Over OPEC+ Cuts
Global oil markets witnessed a continued decline on Wednesday as investors assessed the impact of extended OPEC+ cuts against a backdrop of diminishing demand prospects in China.
Brent crude oil, the international benchmark for Nigerian crude oil, declined by 63 cents to $76.57 a barrel while U.S. WTI crude oil lost 58 cents to $71.74 a barrel.
Last week, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies, collectively known as OPEC+, agreed to maintain voluntary output cuts of approximately 2.2 million barrels per day through the first quarter of 2024.
Despite this effort to tighten supply, market sentiment remains unresponsive.
“The decision to further reduce output from January failed to stimulate the market, and the recent, seemingly coordinated, assurances from Saudi Arabia and Russia to extend the constraints beyond 1Q 2024 or even deepen the cuts if needed have also fallen to deaf ears,” noted PVM analyst Tamas Varga.
Adding to the unease, Saudi Arabia’s decision to cut its official selling price (OSP) for flagship Arab Light to Asia in January for the first time in seven months raises concerns about the struggling demand for oil.
Amid the market turmoil, concerns over China’s economic health cast a shadow, potentially limiting fuel demand in the world’s second-largest oil consumer.
Moody’s recent decision to lower China’s A1 rating outlook from stable to negative further contributes to the apprehension.
Analysts will closely watch China’s preliminary trade data, including crude oil import figures, set to be released on Thursday.
The outcome will provide insights into the trajectory of China’s refinery runs, with expectations leaning towards a decline in November.
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s diplomatic visit to the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia has added an extra layer of complexity to the oil market dynamics.
Discussions centered around the cooperation between Russia, the UAE, and OPEC+ in major oil and gas projects, highlighting the intricate geopolitical factors influencing oil prices.
U.S. Crude Production Hits Another Record, Posing Challenges for OPEC
U.S. crude oil production reached a new record in September, surging by 224,000 barrels per day to 13.24 million barrels per day.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration reported a consecutive monthly increase, adding 342,000 barrels per day over the previous three months, marking an annualized growth rate of 11%.
The surge in domestic production has led to a buildup of crude inventories and a softening of prices, challenging OPEC⁺ efforts to stabilize the market.
Despite a decrease in the number of active drilling rigs over the past year, U.S. production continues to rise.
This growth is attributed to enhanced drilling efficiency, with producers focusing on promising sites and drilling longer horizontal well sections to maximize contact with oil-bearing rock.
While OPEC⁺ production cuts have stabilized prices at relatively high levels, U.S. producers are benefiting from this stability.
The current strategy seems to embrace non-OPEC non-shale (NONS) producers, similar to how North Sea producers did in the 1980s.
Saudi Arabia, along with its OPEC⁺ partners, is resuming its role as a swing producer, balancing the market by adjusting its output.
Despite OPEC’s inability to formally collaborate with U.S. shale producers due to antitrust laws, efforts are made to include other NONS producers like Brazil in the coordination system.
This outreach aligns with the historical pattern of embracing rival producers to maintain control over a significant share of global production.
In contrast, U.S. gas production hit a seasonal record high in September, reaching 3,126 billion cubic feet.
However, unlike crude, there are signs that gas production growth is slowing due to very low prices and the absence of a swing producer.
Gas production increased by only 1.8% in September 2023 compared to the same month the previous year.
While the gas market is in the process of rebalancing, excess inventories may persist, keeping prices low.
The impact of a strengthening El Niño in the central and eastern Pacific Ocean could further influence temperatures and reduce nationwide heating demand, impacting gas prices in the coming months.
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