On Sunday evening, the cryptocurrency bitcoin began publicly trading on the CBOE Futures Exchange, and bitcoin futures quickly shot up as much as 26 percent, triggering two temporary halts to calm the market. Bitcoin has been on a tear, with its value rising more than 1,600 percent this year alone, but before Sunday's launch of a futures exchange market, technical difficulty and other concerns had left many investors on the sidelines. The CBOE exchange and coming futures markets from CME Group and Nasdaq aim to make betting on the world's most famous cryptocurrency open to a wider pool of investors in a more regulated market.
The CBOE futures are only a sliver of the global bets on bitcoin, with contracts nominally worth $40 million trading on the exchange in its first eight hours while some $1.1 billion traded against the U.S. dollar, Bloomberg says, citing Cryptocompare.com data. There are about 16.73 million bitcoin in circulation, collectively worth more than $260 billion, and about 40 percent of those are owned by maybe 1,000 people, Bloomberg reports, giving those "whales" a lot of influence over the price of the cryptocurrency.
There are a lot of unanswered questions and issues about bitcoin going more mainstream, including taxes, volatility, transparency, energy use, and whether bitcoin is in bubble territory. Bitpay's Sonny Singh and Bloomberg's Cory Johnson discussed some of the issues over the weekend.
Right now, investors should probably expect a roller coaster. "It is rare that you see something more volatile than bitcoin, but we found it: bitcoin futures," Zennon Kapron, managing director of Shanghai-based consulting firm Kapronasia, told Bloomberg.