Investors Pull $200M From BITO After Spot ETF Approval

Bitcoin futures ETF hits rough patch after spot funds began trading.

LucyBrewster310x310
|
Finance Reporter
|
Reviewed by: James Rubin
,
Edited by: Ron Day

While the debut of spot bitcoin exchange-traded funds this month appears to have been wildly successful for the funds and their issuers, the same can’t be said for their older cousins, the futures funds that have been trading for the past several years.  

The largest among them, the $1.85 billion ProShares Bitcoin Strategy ETF (BITO) has struggled since the spot funds hit the market Jan. 11, the day after their approval was granted by the Securities and Exchange Commission. Investors have pulled $203 million from the fund since that day, according to etf.com data.

At the same time, the fund’s trading volume has simmered down, dropping back to its average 19 million or so a day, after surging to 88.6 million on Jan. 11, according to Bloomberg data.  

The approval of the spot bitcoin ETF has been seen as a threat to take market share from the approximately $2 billion in bitcoin futures funds. Since BITO’s 2021 approval, only futures-based bitcoin ETFs were available to investors, and the spot funds now give investors exposure to real-time bitcoin prices and enable them to bypass crypto exchanges like Coinbase.

“Though they’ve delivered strong returns over the past year, bitcoin futures ETFs suffer from higher costs than their spot bitcoin ETF counterparts,” said etf.com analyst Sumit Roy. “In particular, roll costs—or the cost of rolling from one futures contract to another—have dampened the ETFs’ returns.”

Spot bitcoin ETFs vs. BITO, Futures

At the same time, spot bitcoin ETFs have pulled in billions from investors: more than $3 billion as of Thursday, Jan. 18. 

Last week, VanEck closed its flagship bitcoin futures fund after the firm launched a spot bitcoin ETF product. “We believe investor appetite would switch from products offering bitcoin futures exposure to direct bitcoin exposure,” said Kyle DaCruz, director of digital assets product at VanEck in a statement to etf.com.  

ProShares didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment.

While there still could be some uses for the futures fund, many experts expect the investment vehicles to eventually peter out, similarly to how gold futures ETFs eventually became extinct after a spot gold ETF launched.  

“What people want is spot, which removes the issues of contango and backwardation. I'm saying this as someone who holds crypto future assets, but there are lots of benefits of a spot bitcoin ETF,” said Matt Hougan, chief investment officer of Bitwise.  

The ProShares fund has also seen outflows as the price of bitcoin has retreated from recent highs at the start of the new year. The cryptocurrency’s current price is $40,601, down about 13% since January 9 when it saw its high of the year at nearly $47,000.  

Contact Lucy Brewster at [email protected].  

Lucy Brewster is a finance reporter at etf.com covering asset managers, emerging technologies, and regulation. She hosts etf.com webinars and appears on Exchange Traded Fridays, etf.com’s flagship podcast. She previously was a finance fellow at Fortune Magazine where she covered markets, investment strategy, and venture capital. She has also been a freelancer writer at the publication Mergers & Acquisitions and a research fellow at the Historic Hudson Valley. 

She graduated from Vassar College in 2022 with a degree in History and was an editor of The Miscellany News, the college's award winning student run newspaper. 

Lucy lives in Brooklyn, NY, and in her free time she loves to run and find new recipes to cook.