Hedge Funds Go Bullish on Bitcoin Futures

By Alexander OsipovichFeaturesDow Jones Newswires

Hedge funds have swung their bitcoin-futures bets to the bullish side for the first time, a marked turn around from a few weeks ago, according to figures released on Friday.

The data from the Commodity Futures Trading Commission suggests a shift in sentiment among so-called "leveraged funds," a category that includes hedge funds. Ever since late December, when the CFTC began publishing weekly reports on the new bitcoin-futures market run by Cboe Global Markets Inc., data had shown that these funds were bearish on bitcoin, unlike smaller investors who are overwhelmingly bullish.

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Futures are a type of derivative that allow traders to bet on whether the price of an asset will rise or fall. Long positions in bitcoin futures profit if the price of the digital currency rises, while short positions pay off if it falls.

The most recent CFTC report showed leveraged funds with 1,142 long positions in bitcoin futures, more than double the 518 short positions they held.

That data was current as of Tuesday, Jan. 23, although it was only released Friday. By comparison, as of Dec. 26, hedge funds' short positions in Cboe bitcoin futures outnumbered their long positions by more than 4 to 1, CFTC data show.

The shift in hedge-fund sentiment came as the price of bitcoin slumped by 31% over that period, according to data from research site CoinDesk. Bitcoin was trading at $10,898.99 late Friday afternoon, according to CoinDesk, after having approached $20,000 mark in December, when heavy retail investor interest pushed the digital currency to record highs.

Since then, a crackdown on digital-currency trading in South Korea, one of the largest markets for bitcoin, helped fuel the selloff.

Chicago-based Cboe was the first regulated U.S. exchange operator to launch bitcoin futures in December, followed by its larger crosstown rival, CME Group Inc.

Still, bitcoin futures remain a relatively small market compared with bitcoin itself, making them an unreliable bellwether for trends in the digital currency, traders say.

Write to Alexander Osipovich at alexander.osipovich@dowjones.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

January 26, 2018 18:03 ET (23:03 GMT)