U.S. asset manager aims to list cryptocurrency index fund

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Bitwise Asset Management Inc took steps to bring a cryptocurrency exchange-traded fund to market on Tuesday, reviving a race to list a bitcoin-linked investment in the United States.

A Bitcoin logo is seen on a cryptocurrency ATM in Santa Monica, California, U.S., January 4, 2018. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

The San Francisco-based company said it has filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for a first-of-its-kind U.S.-listed ETF that would track an index including bitcoin and nine other digital currencies.

Cryptocurrencies have grown to a market capitalization near $300 billion as a rival system for payment and exchange to currencies minted by governments.

An ETF would open investment to anyone with a brokerage account, including a range of retail and institutional investors who would not trade the currencies directly or even futures contracts based on it.

“The crypto market is significant,” said Matt Hougan, global head of research for Bitwise. “It’s too big for people to ignore.”

Prospects for a bitcoin ETF seemed to dim in January when a top SEC staffer told the fund industry in a public letter that the regulatory agency wants answers to a slate of investor protection concerns before endorsing what were then more than a dozen proposed products based on cryptocurrencies.

Some of the bitcoin ETF proposals were withdrawn around that time, but at least four still await an up-or-down decision from the SEC, including a recent application that drew more than 100 comment letters from the public.

Bitcoin had already risen above $8,300 on Tuesday to its highest level in two months, with markets citing hope for a cryptocurrency ETF. The asset has declined sharply from above $17,000 earlier this year.

Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt; editing by Jonathan Oatis and Dan Grebler