Unlocking 2024: Crypto ETFs, Regulations and the Rise of a Bullish Market

Cryptocurrencies have emerged as a transformative force, altering the landscape of finance and investment with their decentralized allure. As we stand on the brink of a new year, the anticipation looms large: the potential approval of crypto Exchange-Traded Funds (ETFs) promises to ignite the financial world in 2024.

The long-awaited arrival of a Bitcoin ETF and similar offerings for other cryptocurrencies have set the stage for a groundbreaking shift in investment paradigms. Investors, enthusiasts, and skeptics alike are eyeing this milestone as a potential turning point in the journey of digital assets into mainstream finance.

Talks about the approval of crypto ETFs mix with memories of 2023—a year full of big changes in the crypto world: prices going up and down a lot, discussions about rules, and new tech getting attention. These factors, along with major events such as the upcoming Bitcoin halving in April 2024, are getting together to build what experts think might be a big turning point ahead.

In this retrospective piece, we delve into the exciting realm of crypto ETFs, exploring their significance, the journey towards approval, and the ripple effects these could create in the ever-evolving market. Let’s navigate through the currents of anticipation and prediction, as 2024 prepares to unfold its potential for the crypto sphere.

General Overview on ETFs

For the newbies, Exchange-Traded Funds (ETFs) are investment funds that are traded on stock exchanges, much like individual stocks. These funds are designed to track the performance of a specific asset or a group of assets, such as stocks, bonds, commodities, or, in this case, cryptocurrencies. The key advantage of ETFs lies in their ability to offer diversified exposure to an asset or market without requiring investors to directly hold the underlying asset.

In the traditional finance realm, ETFs have gained immense popularity due to their ease of trade, lower costs compared to mutual funds, and their capacity to offer investors a simple way to access various markets or sectors.

What are Crypto ETFs? How Did They Make Their Way Through the Industry?

As explained, ETFs are like stocks but a bunch of assets bundled together. However, what happens when this stock market hero meets the flashy world of digital money? That’s where crypto ETFs step in.

Actually, crypto ETFs make it possible for investors to dive into cryptocurrencies without actually owning them. They follow how cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin or Ethereum are doing and copy their prices.

What is different about them? 

While regular ETFs mix all sorts of assets, crypto ETFs focus only on digital money or companies in the crypto world.

You can buy and sell crypto ETFs on normal stock exchanges. That means you can use your usual brokerage account to invest in cryptocurrencies indirectly. No need to fuss with cryptocurrency exchanges or those tricky wallets and private keys.

Basically, crypto ETFs act like a bridge. They connect the traditional money world with this new digital cash frontier. They give investors a safe and familiar place to dive into cryptocurrencies without all the confusing tech hassle that comes with it.

Blackrock’s ETF Journey

The cryptocurrency industry has been closely monitoring BlackRock since the asset manager giant filed an unexpected application for a Bitcoin ETF in June. As a matter of fact, over the past decade, the SEC has consistently rejected all Bitcoin ETF applications, citing concerns about market manipulation in the cryptocurrency space as a primary reason. However, BlackRock’s involvement has raised expectations of a different outcome, given its standing in the financial markets and its impressive track record in ETF applications.

We need to Start from Somewhere…Blackrock Approval Perhaps?

BlackRock’s potential entry into the Bitcoin ETF realm holds immense significance on various fronts. 

Credibility Boost: BlackRock’s trusted risk management can instill confidence, attracting cautious institutional investors to the crypto market.

Mainstream Adoption: A BlackRock-backed Bitcoin ETF might bring Bitcoin to the masses, drawing from the firm’s successful track record in ETFs and broadening crypto accessibility.

Market Stability: Improved liquidity from the ETF could lead to better price stability for Bitcoin, potentially reducing its notorious volatility.

Regulatory Precedent: Approval of a BlackRock Bitcoin ETF could set a regulatory standard, triggering a wave of similar ETFs from other financial institutions (which will surely happen).

Risk Mitigation: By offering a regulated investment vehicle, a BlackRock Bitcoin ETF could address security concerns, appealing to risk-averse investors wary of managing private keys.

Commenting on the matter, Jeff Billingham, Chainalysis Director of Strategic Initiatives, shared with UNLOCK Blockchain his thoughts, stating that the introduction of cryptocurrency ETFs has the potential to enhance market accessibility for institutional and retail investors alike, providing a regulated avenue for exposure to the world’s largest cryptocurrency. There is no doubt that these products will be welcome by investors of varying sizes.

He added that such ETFs are likely to bring new institutional flows. Independent broker dealers, wealth divisions at banks, and RIAs aren’t a part of the crypto retail ecosystem currently, and they would likely make up a significant portion of ETF activity.

In fact, according to data from our 2023 Geography of Cryptocurrency report, in the UAE, between July 2022 and June 2023, the majority (67%) of cryptocurrency transactions were for institutional investments (values over US$1million), followed by transfers for professional investments (US$10,000 to US$1million). With institutional investors already expressing such high interest in crypto assets, the introduction of instruments like ETFs will no doubt be well received.

As for Bitcoin’s price, which tends to rise whenever there’s talk about ETFs getting approved, has been steadily increasing for some time. Jeff explained, “Bitcoin’s price volatility often coincides with significant market developments, and spot BTC ETF approvals will likely be no different. Regardless of any potential short term price appreciation, spot crypto ETFs will have a longer-term positive effect on the stability and maturity of crypto market infrastructure. More plainly said, ETFs are a long game. Crypto has historically been a high-risk market with significant volatility. ETFs will encourage more stable risk management and market infrastructure over the next three, five, and ten years.”

2024 Market Predictions

Talking Bitcoin, let’s dive into the 2024 market forecasts. 2023 has surely been a wild ride, but it looks like the next year is on the way to a bullish market. After the Bitcoin halving, the long-awaited ETF approvals, clearer regulations across the cryptocurrency sector (including Binance’s recent settlement), and the expulsion of bad actors from the market, expectations are high for a positive market shift.

Bitcoin Halving

The Bitcoin halving event, slated for April 2024, is poised to have a significant impact on the cryptocurrency’s value and price dynamics. This predetermined event occurs approximately every four years and involves halving the rewards that miners receive for verifying transactions, reducing the rate at which new Bitcoins are generated.

Historically, Bitcoin halvings have triggered an uptick in scarcity as the supply decreases, often leading to an increase in demand. The reduced influx of new coins combined with sustained or growing interest tends to drive up Bitcoin’s value. This anticipated scarcity, coupled with heightened attention from investors and traders, is widely expected to catalyze a surge in Bitcoin’s price, continuing the trend observed in previous halving cycles. The event’s historical significance and its impact on supply and demand dynamics have historically propelled Bitcoin to new price highs, a trend that many analysts and enthusiasts anticipate to unfold once again in April 2024.

For instance, the projection of BitQuant, a full-service crypto market solution maker, believes that Bitcoin will hit the $160,000 mark. However, the team believes that it won’t before the halving, possibly encountering retracements along the way. Their forecast places the potential price at $250,000, exceeding its current value by over ninefold.

Should such an upsurge materialize, it could prove advantageous for cryptocurrency Exchange-Traded Funds (ETFs) such as Invesco Alerian Galaxy Crypto Economy ETF (SATO) and Invesco Alerian Galaxy Blockchain Users and Decentralized Commerce ETF (BLKC). These ETFs consist of crypto-related stocks and might experience growth if Bitcoin’s value escalates as anticipated.

Regularity Clarity

This is by far the most important section of the piece, as operating in a well-regulated industry to protect users’ funds is more than crucial at this point. 

We’ve seen it all; the fraudulent schemes, the collapses that left thousands in utmost darkness, scams, deceiving ads and the list goes on and on. However, regularity advancements are taking place by the day, with the UAE leading the MENA region and potentially, the world.

As a matter of fact, ADGM (Abu Dhabi Global Market) and VARA (Virtual Asset Regulatory Authority) have emerged as trailblazers in fostering regulatory advancements within the industry. 

ADGM, positioned as an international financial center, has proactively instituted frameworks and guidelines to ensure a robust and secure ecosystem for digital assets and blockchain technology. The regulatory body’s efforts have included establishing clear regulatory frameworks, fostering innovation through friendly regulatory environments, and promoting compliance standards, elevating the region’s standing in the global crypto landscape.

Additionally, ADGM now houses notable local players like M2, Midchains, and Changer.ae, licensed by the FSRA. In fact, M2’s emergence as a fully regulated Multilateral Trading Facility (MTF) and Custodian has generated significant industry buzz, positioning it as a potential global game-changer. With expectations surpassing even established platforms like Binance, M2’s success could elevate ADGM’s global reputation in digital finance. 

The region’s appeal also attracts entities like AMINA Bank AG and Sygnum Bank AG, showcasing ADGM’s progressive regulatory framework. Despite successes, challenges persist, illustrated by entities like Glomax and Venom Foundation, revealing uncertainties within the landscape.In parallel, VARA’s initiatives have centered on regulating and supervising virtual asset activities, setting standards for licensing and oversight, and bolstering consumer protection measures. Since its inception in March 2022, VARA has made significant headway, swiftly issuing 10 VASP licenses encompassing diverse services.

In fact, CoinMENA FZE’s recent attainment of the VASP license for Broker-Dealer Services marks VARA’s tenth licensed entity. With three major exchanges in the queue for VASP licensing, including Crypto.com, OKX, and Bybit, anticipation grows for their inclusion in UAE’s crypto ecosystem. However, BitOasis’ status remains non-operational due to compliance issues.

VARA’s evolving regulations reflect Dubai’s push for a robust, regulated crypto landscape, enhancing the city’s global stance in digital asset management.

In addition to that, the Markets in Crypto-Assets (MiCA) regulation aims to establish a comprehensive framework for cryptocurrencies and related services across the European Union (EU). 

Expected to come into effect in the near future, MiCA seeks to create a single market for digital finance, enabling issuers, service providers, and users of crypto-assets to operate under clear and uniform rules, fostering innovation while ensuring consumer protection and financial stability. More regularity clarity!

However, several recent regulatory changes have leaned toward a bullish market, notably the resolved conflict between Binance and the SEC, causing upheaval in the market pending final decisions. 

Additionally, the pending rulings involving former FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried, currently in jail, and Do Kwon, TerraLuna co-founder, detained in Montenegro facing potential extradition to the US, underscore the imperative of ensuring proper trials for significant fraudulent occurrences. This also means the market has been cleansed from some bad players (not entirely, though, as there are always a few in any field), a win for the community and especially for users.

With this in mind, one can say that all these regularity advancements have definitely improved the space, in hopes of adding more to the list next year. 

In conclusion, in the ever-evolving landscape of cryptocurrencies and regulations, the tides of change remain constant. As giants clash and pivotal figures face scrutiny, the market holds its breath, awaiting resolutions that could shape its trajectory. These turbulent moments not only underscore the vigilance against fraudulent activities but also serve as milestones in the pursuit of a more transparent and accountable digital financial realm. 

Beyond the chaos lies an industry resilient and primed for transformation, where each decision, ruling, and regulatory shift becomes a brushstroke in the vibrant canvas of innovation and integrity.

Embracing the uncertainties with cautious optimism, the crypto world continues its march, fueled by the dynamism that defines its essence—where every twist and turn holds the promise of a new chapter in this thrilling saga of finance, technology, and the quest for a decentralized future.

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