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Tiny $217 Options Trade On Bitcoin Blockchain Could Be Wall Street’s Death Knell (#GotBitcoin?)

The cryptocurrency industry isn’t replacing Wall Street just yet. But inventors and entrepreneurs are working on it, with some initial success, albeit modest. Tiny $217 Options Trade on Bitcoin Blockchain Could Be Wall Street’s Death Knell (#GotBitcoin?)

In this case, an option premium of 0.0202 bitcoin ($217 at the time) paid via a smart contract may have just become the proof of concept.

The latest target for blockchain disruption is options trading tied to the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index, the main benchmark for U.S. stocks. It’s a massive market, with roughly $400 billion of the options changing hands every day last year, on average.

Under the current setup, Wall Street firms typically execute the trades and handle the settlement afterward – essentially making sure the securities end up in the buyer’s account, and that the cash ends up with the seller. But for investors, the process can be expensive, due to the middlemen fees being charged, and slow, with settlement typically taking a day or two.

In July, Emmanuel Goh, CEO of London-based firm skew., a startup specializing in analytical tools for the crypto industry, says he came up with the idea of using the bitcoin blockchain – the decentralized computer network underpinning the decade-old cryptocurrency – to trade S&P 500 options.

Goh was previously a trader in London for JPMorgan Chase, the largest U.S. bank, where he slung options on auto, chemical, consumer and industrial stocks. In other words, the options market is an arena he knows well, at least in the traditional sense. Earlier this month, skew. (which spells its name with a period) announced $2 million in seed funding from several venture capital firms, including the Silicon Valley icon Kleiner Perkins.

The S&P options project was entirely experimental, Goh told CoinDesk – the challenge was mainly to see if it could be done. (The publicity probably doesn’t hurt, either.) Since the trade would essentially be automated via computer programming, it would be less expensive to conduct and settle a lot faster, maybe in just 10 or 15 minutes, according to Goh.

Goh said the technology that made it possible comes from Crypto Garage, a subsidiary of the publicly traded, Tokyo-based tech firm Digital Garage. Crypto Garage has developed an expertise in smart contracts, small strings of programming that can be encoded into the bitcoin blockchain to run when activated.

The transaction needed to cross on the bitcoin blockchain, Goh said, because it’s the most secure in the industry, even though smart contracts are generally considered easier to program on the ethereum network.

The Transaction

So on Sept. 6, Goh says, he took some British pounds from an in-house research-and-development fund at skew. converted those into bitcoin, and then used the proceeds to buy 10 S&P 500 call spreads – a popular type of option – from Crypto Garage, all under a new smart contract, with terms agreed to by both counterparties in minutes. The expiration date for the options was set for the third Friday of the month, similar to the standard practice on many exchanges.

At the outset, Skew. paid an option premium of 0.0202 bitcoin ($217 at the time) via the smart contract, and Crypto Garage posted 0.04667 bitcoin as collateral.

On Sept. 20, the expiration date, the smart contract automatically used a price feed from Atlanta-based Intercontinental Exchange (parent company of the New York Stock Exchange) to establish the final price for the S&P 500.

The trade went in skew.’s favor, resulting in a payout of 0.036 bitcoin ($365 at the time). Crypto Garage got 0.01 bitcoin of its collateral back. (Skew later sent some money back to Crypto Garage, as a true-up.)

Above is an image produced with data from the bitcoin blockchain – the trade settlement, at expiry. Initially daunting, it’s the elegant simplicity here that is the promise of a blockchain-driven future.

At the top, that string of letters and numbers in blue is the ID number for the transaction. On the left, the blue string is the address where the collateral is stored, and the white number is the amount of collateral, in BTC. On the right, the top blue string is the address of the winning counterparty in the trade, which got back the white number of bitcoin, and the blue address just below that is for the losing counterparty, which gets back the leftover collateral. In yellow, on the lower right, it shows that the transaction was confirmed 2068 times by the blockchain and then the yellow number of bitcoin is the total BTC proceeds distributed to the two counterparties from the collateral, after deducting the fees.

Scaling Limitations

For GOH, the big takeaway from the exercise is that it worked.

“The trade settlement took 45 minutes to process, with total transaction costs equal to a few U.S. dollars,” he said. “The smart contract knows exactly how much the parties will get back.”

In theory, he says, the cost would have remained the same even if the notional amount of the trade had stretched into the millions or billions of dollars.

The important part, he says, is that “you don’t have all the intermediaries.”

Could the new process be scaled up to handle the volume of S&P options trades currently handled by securities firms? Probably not without improvements to the bitcoin blockchain’s processing capacity, Goh says. But a lot of programmers are working on doing just that.

In the annals of technological breakthroughs, it’s not exactly Ben Franklin hanging a key on the end of a kite. But the little $217 options trade might be a step forward in making financial markets cheaper and faster to use – with less Wall Street involvement.

Updated: 1-11-2020

New CME Bitcoin Options Spark ‘Unusually Strong Activity’ — JPMorgan

The United States’ largest bank believes interest will be high in CME Group’s new Bitcoin (BTC) options when they launch on Jan. 13.

In a note from Jan. 10 quoted by Bloomberg on Friday, a group of analysts at JPMorgan Chase led by Nikolaos Panigirtzoglou noted interest in CME’s existing Bitcoin futures had spiked in the run-up to the release.

“High Anticipation” of Bitcoin Options

On the shift in investor behavior, JPMorgan summarized:

“This unusually strong activity over the past few days likely reflects the high anticipation among market participants of the option contract.”

The events mark a contrast to the December launch of options from CME competitor, Bakkt, the analysts added, with volumes for that product staying “rather small.”

Overall, interest in Bitcoin futures has traditionally taken a long period to gather momentum. As Cointelegraph noted, Bakkt’s own launch in September mirrored CME’s debut in December 2017, both preceding an extended period of low volume.

The start of futures trading further came in advance of a Bitcoin price drop, the absence of which could distinguish next week’s options launch.

A Taste Of Market Impact To Come?

While JPMorgan did not link last week’s uptick in futures activity to BTC/USD performance, the pair nonetheless made significant gains, rising 15% from $7,300 last weekend to local highs in excess of $8,400.

Theories circulating among commentators also attribute the strong performance to geopolitical uncertainty centered on Iran.

In a separate Bloomberg interview on Jan. 8, Sonny Singh, chief commercial officer at cryptocurrency payment processor BitPay, said even a small segment of new investors coming into Bitcoin was enough to move the market more decisively.

Noting both the Iran crisis and the participation of companies such as Fidelity Investments, Singh added he forecasts Bitcoin breaking its all-time highs of $20,000 in 2020.

Updated: 1-13-2020

CME’s Options On Bitcoin Futures Pass Regulatory Approval And Go Live

The Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) has received necessary regulatory approval and has launched its new Bitcoin (BTC) futures options as of today, Jan. 13.

According to the official website of CME, the new type of Bitcoin derivatives contract — Bitcoin futures options — is now live, which comes in line with the company’s plans announced in November 2019.

CME’s Bitcoin Futures Options Was Subject To “Regulatory Approval” Earlier In The Day

Specifically, the launch of CME’s Bitcoin futures options follows regulatory approval that the exchange received earlier today, as reported by Cointegraph. As of press time, the approval notice has gone from the website, which apparently means that regulators have given the green light.

CME, one of the first exchanges to host Bitcoin futures contracts — alongside the Chicago Board Options Exchange back in 2017 — first announced its plans to introduce options on Bitcoin futures on Nov. 12, 2019. According to CME, the new product was announced in response to growing interest in cryptocurrencies and customer demand for tools to manage Bitcoin exposure.

Crypto Derivatives Market Continues To Surge

The news comes amid Bitcoin futures traders reportedly generating at least $20 billion in daily volume last week. According to aggregate volume data for Bitcoin futures products by analyst Skew Markets, global futures trading volume exceeded $20 billion on Jan. 8 alone.

Meanwhile, CME is purportedly the third global derivatives player to launch trading for options on Bitcoin futures. The exchange was apparently beaten by cryptocurrency derivatives exchange FTX that reportedly quietly launched Bitcoin options trading on Jan. 11.

As reported by Cointelegraph, the Intercontinental Exchange (ICE)’s digital asset platform Bakkt has become the first exchange to launch Bitcoin options in the United States.

According to estimates, crypto futures trading volume reportedly amounted to almost 50% of the value of spot trading on crypto markets as of late October 2019.

Updated: 11-21-2020

CME Bitcoin Options Volume Doubles One Week After Launch, Hits $5.3M

Bitcoin (BTC) options from CME Group more than doubled their traded volume in the first week after going live, data shows.

According to figures supplied by the company, Bitcoin options volumes skyrocketed in the seven days since they went live on Jan. 13.

BTC Futures Options Surge Higher

As of Jan. 17, volume was 122 contracts, worth 610 BTC ($5.27 million). By comparison, on day one, volume was 55 contracts, or 275 BTC (currently worth $2.37 million).

Open interest on options stood at 219 contracts on Friday, equivalent to 1,095 BTC ($9.45 million).

As Cointelegraph reported, CME already considered its options a “success” at launch, while commentators subsequently suggested the uptake signaled institutional commitment to Bitcoin futures.

Futures offerings themselves also saw strong performance as last week ended, with CME seeing total volumes of 7,245 contracts (36,225 BTC or nearly $313 million). Smaller operator Bakkt traded $15.2 million on the day.

The tail end of last week saw a steady decline for Bakkt, according to data from social media monitoring resource Bakkt Volume Bot.

Binance Irks Over Token Burns

Meanwhile, even CME’s volumes would appear to pale in comparison to Binance, currently the subject of controversy among cryptocurrency figures over its giant reported futures statistics.

According to its website, Binance’s Bitcoin futures traded 111,000 BTC ($959 million) in the past 24 hours alone. The volume even dwarfs that of Binance’s spot markets 3:1, recent data suggests.

At the same time, an alleged discrepancy in how Binance burns its in-house token, Binance Coin (BNB), has led one critic to claim foul play on the part of executives.

Binance says it burns BNB tokens each quarter in relation to its total quarterly profits. In September, this began to include futures products.

In a tweet on Tuesday, however, Tim Copeland, a journalist at crypto media outlet Decrypt, highlighted a change of language in a whitepaper as proof Binance now burned BNB based on volume, not profit.

“This was quietly removed from its whitepaper some time ago. It was accurate for at least the first year. So the profit estimates may not be accurate,” he warned.

Updated: 2-1-2020

Options Growth Will Ignite Innovation In The Bitcoin Market – But Not In The Way You Think

Like futures, the launch of bitcoin options on major exchanges has been met with anticipation.

Hopeful observers believe the CME’s and Bakkt’s entry into the burgeoning options market will further encourage institutional participation. It will – but not necessarily in the way they expect.

For major institutions, miners and other corporates involved in the space, options open a new, powerful tool for managing risk and volatility. But, as we can see from other financial markets, these capabilities won’t come from the listed options themselves.

Instead, the real action will take place in over-the-counter hedges. While these corporate-focused products will rely on vanilla option liquidity, they will move volumes on exchanges.

Before we explain why this is the case, it’s worth highlighting the growing demand for options as a means to hedging. Options have been the fastest-growing product segment of the crypto market in 2019, with the trajectory of volumes likely to accelerate in 2020.

Crypto derivatives volumes are nascent compared to the spot market and the size by which some financial derivatives dwarf their respective spot markets. Nonetheless, the emergence of a variety of derivatives should have a significant influence on the growth of the space.

Now, to understand how the options market will serve as the foundation for corporate risk management, I can draw upon my experience managing hedging programs at Goldman Sachs for some of the world’s biggest corporations. There, the focus was on helping entities with natural exposures hedge their risks. On the supply side, the biggest yearly trade in commodities was when Mexico would buy puts to hedge their royalties on the country’s oil production.

On the demand side, airlines and shipping companies would come to market to lock in forward prices to hedge their consumption. However, these entities rarely traded “listed” exchange products directly. Characteristics of listed options products are not a good fit for corporate risk, they are more meant for specialists and speculation. Corporate entities prefer to trade products that are specifically built for them, that utilize the liquidity of the exchange-listed products.

In the crypto world, the single-day expiration date of these products means traders need to deal with the volatility of the expiry day, which could be prone to emotional sentiment or other non-economic factors. A single-day hedge is likely too short in duration for a corporation like a miner to properly protect the value of their outputs or market exposure.

Instead, custom-built swaps and options strategies provide a better solution for many in the ecosystem as a hedge, as they would allow the parties to hedge ratably each day as they balance out exposure over longer periods.

Further parallels can be drawn between oil producers and bitcoin miners. Mining costs vary as new equipment comes to market and electricity prices fluctuate. Bitcoin volatility also eats at profitability. With major miners having gone public and/or reporting to a group of shareholders, the pressure to maintain a good balance sheet is growing. Additionally, margin compression resulting from the upcoming halving is likely to push miners to better manage the risk of volatility.

More risk will lie in the hands of fewer miners as the market consolidates. Like oil producers, these companies will increasingly look towards hedging solutions to ensure the costs of mining will not outpace market pricing of the resulting digital assets. Lenders will also begin to mandate that miners hedge so they will still be able to meet their obligations as borrowers in the event of a bear market.

Corporates – whether they be oil companies or bitcoin miners – usually do not trade directly on exchanges. They require a different product offering and manner of doing business. In addition to the temporal mismatch resulting from hedging daily risk with a single-day “bullet” expiry, futures exchanges are difficult to connect to, as entities must trade through an FCM (Futures Clearing Merchant). This creates space for hedging products tailor-made for crypto-native firms.

However, these products still need to hedge the core volatility risk somewhere, so it is first necessary for liquidity to build on listed products. The emergence of liquidity in the listed options market will be the foundation for these types of hedges.

Once companies can hedge these listed products, the risk that is left is more of a residual nature. Market makers are primed to take on these risks and be the trading counterparty for these hedges.

The existence of listed vanilla options on mainstream exchanges is only the beginning. For corporates, miners and others, the excitement lies in what can be done once saturation of underlying liquidity in volatility arrives. This is the base on which a whole host of other volatility-related products can be built, particularly as it relates to corporate hedging and risk management. Ultimately, this helps reduce unwanted exposures and enables more investment. In this way, listed options serve as the starting point for a whole new array of products and services.

Updated: 3-10-2020

Bitcoin Options Volume Sets Record As BTC Miners Hit Breakeven Cost

Bitcoin (BTC) derivatives traders were anything but bearish during Monday’s crash, data reveals — options volumes set a giant $200 million all-time high.

According to figures collated by monitoring resource Skew Markets, volatility which saw BTC/USD descend to two-month lows of $7,625 sparked a surge in options trading.

BTC Options Near $200M Daily

Aggregate volume from CME Group and exchanges such as Deribit and OKEx totaled $198 million as the week began. The figure easily eclipses the previous record of around $175 million seen in February.

Since then, volatility has seen Bitcoin surpass $8,000 before erasing its gains on Tuesday, returning to levels at around $7,800. In traditional markets, the Dow Jones likewise reversed the progress made prior to opening on the day.

$8K Critical For Miners

Analysts remained highly cautious about the short-term outlook for BTC/USD. The area around $8,000 remained critical, Capriole digital asset manager Charles Edwards noted, as it represents Bitcoin’s average production cost for miners.

After May’s block reward halving event, he said, that production cost will skyrocket to around $17,800, with $8,000 set to be a “pessimistic” price floor for the rest of this year.

“I wouldn’t put a specific date on it, my target is for mid-late 2020,” Edwards added.

Earlier, Cointelegraph reported that even at $7,600, Bitcoin would be performing exactly as expected according to stock-to-flow, one of its most historically accurate price forecasting models.

Updated: 4-13-2020

Binance Officially Launches Bitcoin Options Trading On Mobile App

Top cryptocurrency exchange Binance has officially launched Bitcoin (BTC) options on its futures trading platform.

Confirming hints earlier this month, the rollout was announced this morning, April 13. It is, for now, limited to the exchange’s mobile app.

Binance Offering U.S.-Style Bitcoin Options Contracts

Options contracts offer traders the chance to purchase either a right to buy (a call option) or sell (a put option) on a given asset at a specified “strike price.” Binance is offering the American, as opposed to the European, version of the derivative, in which traders can exercise their rights — i.e. settle the contract at the chosen strike price — at any time before or on the expiry date itself.

For Binance’s BTC/Tether (USDT) options contracts, traders first transfer their USDT holdings from their spot wallet to their futures wallet and choose an expiry date, ranging from 10 minutes to one day.

In a note to traders, Binance indicates that a fixed value premium must be paid at the start, meaning that any prospective profits on trades will be net, i.e. profits minus the premium. The exchange cautions that:

“There is no guarantee that your options purchase will execute at a profit after the premium has been deducted. Most options purchases will not be profitable, but a minority will be very profitable. Please use at your own discretion.”

Options Contracts In The Crypto Space

As previously reported, Malta-based cryptocurrency exchange OKEx has already launched Bitcoin options trading for a select group of traders in December 2019, ahead of their public launch early this year.

Chicago Mercantile Exchange Group announced plans to launch an options product for Bitcoin futures back in September, later indicating it was anticipating high demand in Asia in particular.

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