Bitcoin rose above $40,000 on Monday for the first time since May last year, boosted by hopes that the U.S. will soon approve a new mainstream offering that could further normalize the asset in the eyes of investors. Bitcoin has skyrocketed this year, with its value increasing by nearly 150%. Its price is boosted by speculation around the creation of a bitcoin index fund (ETF), an investment product that would directly track the price of the cryptocurrency.
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This "Bitcoin ETF spot" would allow a larger portion of the general public to invest in the cryptocurrency without having to buy it directly. Thus, "institutional money in U.S. financial markets could have a legitimate, compliant pathway," Lucy Guzmararian, founder of Token Bay Capital, told Bloomberg. "Expectations are extremely high and it's really going to take bitcoin to new levels," she said.
Bitcoin was trading above $40,700 at around 04:00 GMT on Monday. The digital currency remains well below its all-time high of nearly $69,000 in 2020, but the prospect is breathing hope into a sector marked by bankruptcies and scandals. FTX, the world's second-largest cryptocurrency exchange, went bankrupt last year and its boss Sam Bankman-Fried (SBF) faces up to 110 years in prison for "one of the biggest financial frauds in the history of the United States" in the words of the Manhattan federal prosecutor.
In early November, SBF was found guilty of unknowingly using funds deposited by customers on his exchange to fund the risky trades and investments of his investment firm, Alameda Research, whose borrowings from FTX have reached as much as about $14 billion. At the end of November, Changpeng Zhao, head of Binance, the world's largest cryptocurrency exchange, announced his resignation after agreeing to plead guilty to violating U.S. anti-money laundering laws.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is reviewing an application by asset manager Grayscale to create a bitcoin ETF, as well as requests from other groups, including BlackRock, the world's largest asset manager, and Ark Invest. Its first decision is expected to be on Ark Invest's application by January 10 at the latest. Bitcoin was also boosted by hopes that the U.S. central bank (Fed) has completed its monetary tightening program and can cut interest rates next year.