Bitcoin Futures to Blame for Crypto Market’s “Gut-Wrenching” Drop, Says Fundstrat Analyst Tom Lee

Omar Faridi
  • Fundstrat analyst Tom Lee wrote that bitcoin futures reaching their expiration dates are to blame for the cryptocurrency market’s recent drop.
  • The data science expert believes that institutional investors have not made substantial investments in the cryptocurrency market due to a lack of proper tools.

Fundstrat Global Advisors co-founder Thomas Lee recently stated that the sharp drop in bitcoin’s price may be linked to the expiration of bitcoin futures contracts. According to Lee, the “significant volatility” of the flagship cryptocurrency could be due to CME and Cboe futures having reached their expiration dates.

Moreover, the data science expert believes that while technical issues and market sentiment have been “awful”, the expiration of bitcoin futures might have played a bigger role in the decline of bitcoin’s market capitalization. The Fundstrat head of research said:

“Bitcoin sees dramatic price changes around CBOE futures expirations. We compiled some of the data and this indeed seems to be true.”

Tom Lee

Lee pointed out that since Cboe’s bitcoin futures contractswere introduced in December 2017, they have expired six times, with the most recent one expiring on June 13. Citing Raptor Capital Management crypto investor Justin Saslaw’s analysis, Lee thinks that the drop in bitcoin’s price can be attributed to the expiration of bitcoin futures contracts.

In his report, the Fundstrat analyst notes that bitcoin's price fell approximately 18 percent 10 days prior to the financial products’ expiration, followed by a recovery felt 6 days after expiration.

“Handsome Profits” Shorting BTC Futures

Lee noted that should people short bitcoin futures as they approach their expiration date and go long on the cryptocurrency, investors could sell a big portion of their holdings at volume-weighted average price (VWAP) with a minimal tracking error.

He also added that the bitcoinsleft could be sold as the expiration date approaches, which would result in declining prices. This way, those who short futures could end up “with a handsome profit”, Lee says.

Commenting on the current cryptocurrency market, the Fundstrat analyst stated that tools to attract institutional investors have not yet been properly developed, which has kept them from investing. He also wrote that numerous initial coin offerings (ICOs) and large amounts of cryptocurrency earned by miners, along with taxed capital gains, have resulted in a significantly greater net supply this year. Notably, Lee has in the past stated he sees bitcoin hit $25,000 by the end of the year, and $91,000 by March 2020.

Interestingly, Lee’s report has come at a time when the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) launched an investigation into four large cryptocurrency exchanges: Coinbase, Kraken, itBit, and Bitstamp.

All four exchanges have been sharing their financial data with the CME Group, which introduced BTC futures in December 2017. The CFTC probe is reportedly due to allegations regarding potential market manipulation.

CME Doesn’t Plan on Launching Physically-Settled Bitcoin Futures Soon

The CME reportedly has no plans to launch a physically-settled bitcoin futures product, similar to the one Bakkt is offering investors.

According to Tim McCourt, the global head of equity index and alternative investment products at CME, the exchange has been seeing institutional interest in the cryptocurrency space grow, but its clients “need time to become familiar with the market and get approval to use new products.”

He added:

Since we launched bitcoin futures in December 2017, the number one demand from customers has been for options on our futures

The CME has recently revealed it plans on launching bitcoin options contracts in the first quarter of next year, based on “increasing client demand” in its bitcoin futures product. Per the firm, over 3,300 individual accounts traded the product so far this year, with on average almost 7,000 contracts being traded a day.

The Intercontinental Exchange’s cryptocurrency venture Bakkt, which offers physically-settled bitcoin futures contracts, has had a rather unsuccessful launch. As covered, it traded around $5.8 million worth of the flagship cryptocurrency in its first week.

Featured image by Stephen Dawson on Unsplash