Bitcoin Usage is 'Really High At the Moment', eToro's Senior Analyst Reveals

Mati Greenspan, the senior market analyst at eToro, a leading social trading platform, has revealed that Google searches for bitcoin (BTC), have increased due to the current rally which appears to have run out of steam.

Greenspan pointed out that cryptocurrency trading volumes have started to pick up, however both trading activity and online searches about cryptocurrencies are “nowhere near” what they were when digital asset prices recorded record-level highs in late 2017.

Greenspan, a licensed portfolio manager, noted that “volumes across” digital asset exchanges (during the last 3 months) are “at their highest levels” since April 2018. Bitcoin usage is “also really high at the moment”, the former financial investments advisor at Ava FX mentioned. In fact, bitcoin usage is “near the highest it’s ever been at 3.87 transactions per second (TPS)”, Greenspan wrote.

Moreover, the experienced market analyst said that BTC usage rates had been “rising steadily throughout the bear market” as bitcoin adoption continued to increase even when crypto prices were down considerably from their record level highs.

"Emerging Markets" Experienced Greatest Increase In Bitcoin Usage

As many other researchers have observed, Greenspan tweeted:

Bitcoin usage is especially high in emerging markets where the local economy is less stable.

Indeed, countries experiencing hyperinflation such as Venezuela have seen bitcoin trading volumes explode to all-time highs. Venezuelans seem to increasingly be turning to cryptoassets, in order to preserve their wealth as the Bolivar (the nation’s fiat currency) has become practically worthless due to extreme inflation.

Notably, volumes on the popular peer-to-peer (P2P) LocalBitcoins exchange were 157x greater (on February 11th, 2019) than Venezuela’s largest stock exchange. Today (February 21st, 2019), Greenspan pointed out that global trading volumes on LocalBitcoins “have been rising lately” when compared to the “noticeable dip” during the prolonged bear market (which is still not over).

Most Millennials More Confident In Crypto Than Traditional Stocks

On February 19th, eToro published the results of its survey which shows that most millennials appear to be more confident in cryptocurrencies, instead of buying traditional stocks. Interestingly, most or 71% of the young investors responding to the survey said they “would invest in crypto if it was offered by traditional financial institutions.”

Over 90% of millennial crypto traders that participated in eToro’s survey said “they would invest more money in [digital assets] if [they] were offered by traditional financial institutions such as TD Ameritrade, Fidelity, or Charles Schwab.”

How Bakkt Can Bring the Crypto Space an Institutional Investor Influx

Cryptocurrency enthusiasts have for years been waiting for institutional investors to enter the space. While the introduction of bitcoin futures contracts on regulated exchanges in late 2017 didn’t gain a lot of traction, but Bakkt may.

Bakkt is a long-awaited bitcoin futures exchange and on-boarding platform from the Intercontinental Exchange (ICE) - the parent company of the New York Stock Exchange – and it’s set to launch this year. Bakkt itself has remained tight-lipped over the precise launch date after delaying its launch last year, with ICE CEO Jeff Sprecher in February simply saying “later this year.”

It’s possible that this quarter may see the launch or at least more news about when the exchange is finally coming. At the end of March, Bakkt CEO Kelly Loeffler explained:

While we’re not yet able to provide a launch date, we’re making solid progress in bringing the first physical delivery price discovery contracts for bitcoin to the U.S.

Bakkt’s launch could be a major milestone for the cryptoasset industry. A venture backed by Microsoft and Starbucks, its institutional pedigree alone will switch many cautious investors on. Specifically, the firm is set to help consumers pay for goods and services with cryptocurrencies, with Starbucks being the flagship retailer in its arsenal.

Bakkt’s Bitcoin futures contracts will be the first physically-settled derivatives on a regulated trading platform. This means investors will receive the contract’s underlying asset, bitcoin, when it expires.

Currently the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) offers cash-settled bitcoin futures contracts, meaning investors get the equivalent of BTC’s value in fiat when the contracts expire. This is seen by some as a major development in the cryptocurrency space, as it shows traditional finance is willing to interact with the nascent cryptoasset industry.

It’s worth noting that earlier this year the ICE’s CEO called Bakkt a “bit of a moonshot bet,”  as it was organized in a way “very different than the way ICE typically does business.” The firm has its own offices and management team, and could undergo more rounds of financing in the future.

Bakkt And a Potential Bitcoin ETF

What’s significant about Bakkt’s launch beyond this, is that it may bolster the chances of a Bitcoin Exchange-Traded fund (ETF) being approved. Such a product would make it easier for institutional investors to gain exposure to cryptocurrencies.

In August, the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) rejected nine other ETF applications, in particular highlighting how those applying hadn’t provided evidence that “bitcoin futures markets are of significant size’” for an ETF to be launched.

Once Bakkt is launched its trading volumes may very well help quell the SEC’s concerns over the bitcoin futures markets’ small size as institutions and other investors may feel comfortable entering it. Larger futures contracts trading volume, increased liquidity and a well-established company involved may prove enough to convince the SEC that the time is right for a Bitcoin ETF.

Bakkt therefore represents a very significant milestone for a maturing cryptoasset industry and may well herald the “institutional influx” that many have been anticipating since 2017. Despite the markets remaining relatively flat throughout 2019 these looming decisions in the U.S. have the power to move the entire industry forward, for better or worse.