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Bitcoin ETFs: BIT Could Be “Balderdash” Says Sell-Side Seer

MarketsMuse.com ETF snapshot takes another bite into the topic of Bitcoin, the dominant digital currency that continues to gain traction with leading brokerdealers and many, [but not all] from across the ETF universe, despite the currency’s 74 percent decline since November 2013. Below is excerpted from 07 April coverage courtesy of NewsMax.com

Big-time traders and investors are starting to participate in the bitcoin market, The Wall Street Journal reports. The list of participants includes Citadel Securities, KCG Holdings and Wedbush Securities. Citadel is a heavyweight investment firm led by Ken Griffin. KCG is the massive brokerage firm formed by the merger of Knight Capital and GETCO.

Citadel, KCG and Wedbush have offered bids to buy shares of the Bitcoin Investment Trust (BIT) since it was listed on the OTC Markets in March, The Journal reports. The BIT holds bitcoin in a trust in which accredited investors can then buy shares. Trading could begin as soon as this week.

KCG is “actively exploring various opportunities related to” bitcoin, its spokeswoman Sophie Sohn tells The Journal.

Some experts say use of the bitcoin by investors and traders will help to further legitimize the currency and increase its usage throughout the economy.

mf_monkeymathTo be sure, there is some skepticism about the BIT. The fund’s manager, Grayscale Investments, charges a 2 percent annual fee for administration and safekeeping, CNBC reports. That’s more than what most exchange-traded funds (ETFs) charge. One skeptical sell-sider has this to say about that..

“BIT investors may end up paying 5 percent more for shares of the fund than if they simply bought bitcoin on an exchange”, Eric Mustin, vice president of ETF Trading Solutions at WallachBeth Capital, tells the news service.

“People who read tabloids deserved to get lied to, and that’s how I feel about someone buying a bitcoin ETF,” he notes. “If you’re confident in this currency that you want to buy it, but you can’t take the 30 seconds to set up a wallet, which is incredibly easy, then you deserve to pay the 5 percent or whatever. I’m not cynical about bitcoin, but I just think it’s a goofy way to trade it.”

non-transparent ETFs

SEC SmackDown of Non-Transparent ETFs-No Secret Sauces!

In an effort to reign in a powerful campaign to launch secret sauce ETFs that have no business being used by ordinary investors, the SEC scored a smackdown on the creation of non-transparent ETFs in a recent ruling that blocks plans by ETF giant BlackRock as well as Precidian Investments to issue ETFs’ whose underlying constituents would otherwise be, well, non-transparent.

The topic of non-transparent ETFs has been a focus of several MarketsMuse articles in recent months. As reported last week by Bloomberg LP, The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission rejected plans by BlackRock Inc. and Precidian Investments to open a new type of exchange-traded fund that wouldn’t disclose holdings daily, setting back efforts to bring more actively managed ETFs to market.

The SEC, in preliminary decisions announced yesterday, denied BlackRock’s September 2011 and Precidian’s January 2013 requests for exemptive relief from the Investment Company Act of 1940. The move puts on hold plans by the firms to start the first non-transparent ETFs.

The Precidian proposal falls “far short of providing a suitable alternative to the arbitrage activity in ETF shares that is crucial to helping keep the market price of current ETF shares at or close” to its net asset value, Kevin O’Neill, a deputy secretary at the SEC, wrote in the letter.

The ruling hinders plans by asset managers to sell funds run by traditional stock-picking managers in an ETF package. Firms including Capital Group Cos. have asked for similar regulatory approval as they seek to expand offerings in the fastest-growing product in the asset-management industry.

Money managers have been discouraged from introducing active ETFs, which combine security selection with the intraday trading and some of the cost-saving features of traditional ETFs, because the SEC’s requirement for daily disclosure of holdings would make it easy for competitors to copy, and traders to anticipate, a manager’s portfolio changes.

‘Not Surprised’

“We want to work with the SEC — we believe it’s part of the process,” Daniel McCabe, Precidian’s chief executive officer, said in a telephone interview. “We’re not surprised by the fact that they have questions, but questions can be answered.”

ETF providers must disclose holdings every day to enable market makers to execute trades that keep the share price in line with the underlying value of the fund’s assets. Firms including BlackRock, Precidian and Guggenheim Partners LLC proposed structures that they say would allow the funds to remain priced in line with assets, without revealing specific positions.

T. Rowe Price Group Inc. in Baltimore and Boston’s Eaton Vance Corp. are also among fund firms seeking SEC approval for non-transparent active ETFs. None of the applications has been approved.

“We are still pursuing our own proposal to offer non-transparent active ETFs,” Heather McDonold, a spokeswoman for T. Rowe, said in a telephone interview.

Commercial Opportunity

Melissa Garville, a spokeswoman for New York-based BlackRock, and Ivy McLemore, a spokesman for Guggenheim, declined to comment. Robyn Tice, a spokeswoman for Eaton Vance, and Elizabeth Bartlett for State Street Corp. didn’t immediately respond to an e-mail and telephone messages seeking comment.

BlackRock was one of the first U.S. fund managers to ask the SEC for approval, after spending three years crafting the product. Their leading role in seeking approval for a non-transparent active ETF has spurred excitement within asset management for the product’s prospects, according to Todd Rosenbluth, director of mutual-fund and ETF research at S&P Capital IQ in New York.

Mark Wiedman, BlackRock’s global head of its iShares ETF unit, said in May that the firm was confident the products would work, “but we don’t actually think it will be much of a commercial opportunity.”

For the full story from Bloomberg reporter Mary Childs, please click here