Feb 26, 2024 - Economy

The winners and losers in the bitcoin ETF world, one month in

Cumulative bitcoin ETF flows since launch
Data: Dune; Chart: Jared Whalen/Axios

The winners and losers in the bitcoin ETF world are becoming clearer after a month of trading.

Why it matters: The existence of this new asset class has been cited as the main reason the price of bitcoin has doubled since September.

  • So far, however, the new ETFs in aggregate are responsible for only about $4.8 billion in net bitcoin purchases — a mere 0.5% of the amount of bitcoin outstanding.

Why it matters to Felix and Emily: We have a bet on whether bitcoin ETFs, in aggregate, will account for more than 5% of total bitcoin market cap by January 12, 2025.

  • If they do, Felix needs to buy $1,000 of a bitcoin ETF and hold it for five years.
  • If they don't, Emily needs to buy $1,000 of actual bitcoin, and keep it in crypto (including stablecoins, if she's so inclined) for five years.
  • Right now, bitcoin ETFs hold 3.73% of total bitcoin market cap.

Where it stands: Out of the many new entrants, the ones sponsored by the biggest and most old-fashioned ETF companies — BlackRock and Fidelity — have received the lion's share of the inflows.

  • Most of the money flowing into those funds isn't newly entering the asset class, it's just being transferred from the Grayscale ETF, more than a decade old, that charges much higher management fees.
  • The Grayscale ETF is still larger than all the others combined, owning 454,000 bitcoins. BlackRock is in distant second place with 119,000; Fidelity has 86,000; and no one else has more than 30,000.

Between the lines: There's a good reason why most holders of GBTC, the Grayscale vehicle, don't just sell their shares and buy one of the newer ETFs with lower fees. That transaction would trigger capital gains taxes, which would dwarf any annual savings.

What's next: The coming months will clarify whether the arrival of BlackRock and Fidelity on the scene will help attract significant new money from the clients of wealth advisers.

  • For the time being, however, those asset managers seem to be better at attracting outflows from Grayscale than they are at drawing new investors into the asset class.
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