New ‘insane’ ETF proposal for bitcoin generates worry on Wall Street

The latest efforts to expand the way investors can buy bitcoins venture into the often misunderstood and potentially dangerous area of leveraged ETFs.

A regulatory application from Direxion Asset Management seeks approval for five new funds — one that seeks straight-up correlation with the cryptocurrency, but four others designed to amplify price movements either up or down.

Such so-called leveraged funds, which use derivatives to achieve their investment goals, have been on the market for years. With $34.7 billion in assets, the funds make up a small but growing part of the $3.5 trillion ETF industry, according to

But the effort by Direxion to bring them into the shadowy world of digital currency is raising some concern on Wall Street. The firm filed its application with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Jan. 4, starting a process that those familiar with it say could take six to nine months.

“That would be insane for them to actually approve this. Then they’re putting a rubber stamp on it as an asset, and I don’t think governments want to go there yet,” said Michael Cohn, chief investment strategist at Atlantis Asset Management. “It just seems as though it’s not something I’d want to put my clients into in any way, shape or form. You can only be embarrassed.”

While it’s far too early to tell what kind of chance Direxion has for gaining approval, it’s important to understand what the proposed funds are and what they are not.

Their names are Direxion Daily Bitcoin Bear 1X Shares, Direxion Daily Bitcoin 1.25X Bull Shares, Direxion Daily Bitcoin 1.5 Bull Shares, Direxion Daily Bitcoin 2X Bull Shares and Direxion Daily Bitcoin 2X Bear Shares. Direxion did not respond to a request for comment.

If approved, the latter four shares would use leverage to replicate the daily price movements of bitcoin by 1.25, 1.5 and two times respectively. The bear fund would effectively “short” bitcoin, or capitalize on declines in price.

However, the funds wouldn’t be tied to the price of bitcoin per se but rather the futures price traded on the Cboe and CME. As such, the Direxion application points out that the funds “should not be expected to track the performance of the target benchmark for any period longer than one business day.”

“There are a lot of conflicting attitudes about this thing. I don’t think the SEC can wrap their arms around this,” Cohn said. “It’s not an asset class, it’s not a currency. It’s going to be evolved into a technology. As to whether that technology is viable, that remains to be seen.”

Indeed, Merrill Lynch recently raised eyebrows when it slapped a ban on bitcoin trading, while other Wall Street principals such as J.P. Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon and BlackRock CEO Larry Fink have decried it as well.

“Can you imagine what a 2X bitcoin put or call is going to do? It’s going to be amazing volatility,” said Nick Colas, a bitcoin watcher and co-founder of DataTrek Research. “It’s eye-watering.” […]

Read Full: New ‘insane’ ETF proposal for bitcoin generates worry on Wall Street