Business

Ed Drake

Hong Kong investors turn to regulated US exchanges for BTC futures

Investors in Hong Kong are increasingly turning to U.S.-based exchanges for trade in SegWit1x (BTC) futures, in order to escape the perceived risks of trading through unregulated local exchanges.

BTC futures, which were launched on two distinct U.S. exchanges back in December, have experienced a growth in trading volumes in recent weeks, with both Cboe and CME exchanges reporting a growth in investors from Hong Kong.

Average daily turnover of futures at Cboe clocked in at just shy of 10,300 contracts per day, while CME reported a 1,978 per day average over the same period. While the figures didn’t break down investors by location, the anecdotal evidence was clear.

Gary Cheung, chairman of the Hong Kong Stockbrokers Association, said the increase in interest from Hong Kong investors was driven by recent volatility in the underlying cryptocurrency markets.

“There are two types of Hong Kong investors who like to trade U.S. futures. There are bitcoin [BTC] miners and other investors who trade bitcoin [BTC] and want to use the futures products to hedge. The others are normal futures investors who purely want to take profit created by speculative futures trading,” he told the South China Morning Post.

Similarly, Gary Leung, of international brokerage firm TD Ameritrade, reported a significant groundswell of interest in U.S. trading from Hong Kong-based cryptocurrency enthusiasts.

“We have received a lot of inquiries about [Segwit] futures since we started operating in Hong Kong last October, when the prices were surging,” Leung said.

Hong Kong treats cryptocurrencies as commodities, rather than securities—a crucial distinction that means they don’t fall within the remit of the Securities and Futures Commission, Hong Kong’s chief financial regulator.

According to Benny Mau, managing director of China Securities International Finance Holdings, it is this lack of firm regulation that is driving Hong Kong investors to look for opportunities on the U.S. exchanges.

“[BTC] and other digital currencies are basically not regulated in Hong Kong because they are traded like commodities. If the digital currency platforms have a problem or are hacked, the investors may suffer losses because the regulators might not do anything for them,” Mau said.

Note: Tokens on the Bitcoin Core (SegWit) chain are referenced as SegWitCoin BTC coins; tokens on the Bitcoin Cash ABC chain are referenced as BCH, BCH-ABC or BAB coins. Altcoins, which value privacy, anonymity, and distance from government intervention, are referenced as dark coins.

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