Bitcoin in 2024 – a monumental year so far

It’s been quite a year so far for Bitcoin.

On the 10th of January 2024, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) approved the launch of several spot Bitcoin ETFs in the US. This was a monumental decision – Grayscale Investments had first filed to convert their spot Grayscale Bitcoin Trust into an ETF back in October 2021. The SEC wholly opposed the idea, rejecting it formally in June 2022. But by August 2023, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit vacated the decision.

And so, when January of 2024 came around, a suite of spot Bitcoin ETFs were launched. Since then, nine of the new ETFs have accrued a total $25 billion in inflows.

With these launches, the price of Bitcoin has seen a significant surge. At time of writing, Bitcoin has risen by over 50%, briefly exceeding $71,000.

Part of the reason for this is the expectation that these ETFs are unlocking a new wave of investor demand – many US investors had been reluctant to use typical cryptocurrency trading venues, especially given the fallout surrounding exchanges such as FTX and Binance over the last couple of years. Now, US investors can access Bitcoin directly, on regulated exchanges.

As Hector McNeil, Co-Founder and Co-CEO of HANetf, notes: “We can consider the SEC approval in a similar vein to the creation of gold ETCs in the early 2000s, which both myself and HANetf Co-Founder Nik Bienkowski had close involvement with. If you read investment literature from before the creation of the first gold ETC, you will see gold often touted as an asset class to consider, adding diversification to a portfolio. But how to gain exposure was always an issue. Investors could opt for exposure to gold miners, but that brought potential equity risk. Or, investors could opt for physical bullion, bringing with it custody risk. Storing gold bars in your garage is not ideal. But, with the creation of the first gold ETC, investors finally had an easy way to invest directly in gold. It is similar for US investors with Bitcoin. Investors have had the option of a futures-based ETF, approved in 2021 – but that added performance drag through roll yield. Or they could use some of the online cryptocurrency trading venues to directly buy bitcoin, with the introduction of a digital-based custody risk. But with the SEC approval, a spot price ETF has become an option.”

 It seems as though the US approval of spot Bitcoin ETFs may have influenced exchanges elsewhere

And so, Bitcoin’s SEC approval has added a new layer of acceptability to the cryptocurrency – and it appears to have engendered market optimism, demonstrated by Bitcoin’s price rise.

Crucially, it seems as though the US approval of spot Bitcoin ETFs may have influenced exchanges elsewhere. On the 11th of March, the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) softened its stance on digital assets, stating it would “not object” to the creation of Bitcoin and Ethereum exchange traded notes (ETNs). On 25th of March, London Stock Exchange (LSE) announced it would accept applications for Bitcoin and Ethereum crypto ETNs, beginning 28th of May.

The UK was one of the last major market holdouts, and the decision lends credence to the UK government’s claim that it wants to be a “global hub for cryptoasset technology and investment”.

Accordingly, the Bitcoin price rose again following the news. While the FCA maintained its view that cryptoassets are “high risk and largely unregulated”, and therefore only suitable for professional investors, the move is significant, and demonstrative of a wider trend towards accepting cryptocurrencies as legitimate investments.

It is worth noting that, in Europe, investors have had access to spot cryptocurrency exposure for a while – the first Bitcoin ETC has been listed on stock exchanges in Germany and Switzerland since 2020 and has since accrued over $1.5 billion assets under management (AUM). Nonetheless, the news of acceptance in the US and the UK is positive for cryptocurrencies in general.

Now, those following the cryptocurrency space will be anticipating the next Bitcoin halving, due in mid-April. Occurring every four years or so, the event sees the number of Bitcoin entering circulation every 10 minutes (block rewards) dropped by half. This is significant – if less Bitcoin is entering circulation, but demand remains constant, the coin’s price could be poised to rise.

For illustrative purposes only. Future halving timelines are based on CoinDesk estimates.

Generally, previous halving events have triggered price increases. This is not to say that it will happen again, and some researchers suggest that the halving effect diminishes over time.

We cannot say for certain what the next halving will bring, but Bitcoin’s dominance of the news in 2024 seems unlikely to diminish.

For illustrative purposes only. Cryptocurrencies are highly volatile. Past performance is not indicative of future performance.

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