CME Group cryptocurrency futures

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CME offers bitcoin and ether futures and options on bitcoin futures.

Bitcoin futures[edit]

CME Group launched a bitcoin futures contract on December 18, 2017, trading on the Globex platform and cleared via ClearPort. The futures are cash-settled, based on the CME CF Bitcoin Reference Rate, a once-a-day reference rate of the U.S. dollar price of bitcoin. CME and cryptocurrency trading platform Kraken's Crypto Facilities have calculated and published the BRR since November 2016.[1] Bitcoin prices from Bitstamp, Coinbase, itBit and Kraken were being used in August 2019 when CME tweeted that it would add bitcoin prices from Gemini starting August 30.[2]

In February 2019, the CME Group announced that in the first quarter of 2019, it set a new record for total bitcoin futures contracts traded. The record high for total contracts traded in Q1 of 2019 was 18,338 contracts as of February 19th, the equivalent of 91,960 BTC or $360 million based on the price of bitcoin at the time. The previous record was set on November 20, 2018.[3] On April 4, 2018, the CME Group Tweeted that the firm had experienced a "record trading day" on bitcoin futures; according to a chart accompanying the Tweet, 22,542 bitcoin futures had traded on April 4 alone, which is equivalent to 112,710 bitcoins.[4][5]

The CME Group saw a record high number of bitcoin futures contracts traded, as well as the highest number of customer accounts trading bitcoin futures in its history in May 2019. The company released a statement saying, "the number of unique accounts continues to grow showing that the marketplace is increasingly using BTC futures to hedge bitcoin risk and/or access exposure."[6]

On June 17, 2019, the CME Group's open interest for bitcoin futures grew by a record 643 contracts in a day, reaching an all-time high of 5,311 contracts. Based on bitcoin's price at the time, this equated to over $250 million worth of contracts.[7] In November 2019, during the announcement of the CME's planned launch of options on bitcoin futures, the exchange said that average daily volume in its bitcoin futures had been 6,500 contracts up to that point in 2019.[8]

Tim McCourt, managing director and global head of equity products, said in early October 2019 that CME had no plans to launch physically-delivered bitcoin futures.[9]

The CME's futures contract was traded 1,011,275 times in the first half of 2020, up 7.4% from 2019's first half.[10]

Options on bitcoin futures[edit]

The CME announced a January launch date for options on bitcoin futures in November 2019.[11] Options on CME bitcoin futures launched around 9 AM CST on January 13, 2020.[12] The exchange reported that its first day volume was 55 option contracts.[13]

Ether futures[edit]

The CME partnered with Crypto Facilities Ltd in May of 2018 to launch the CME CF Ether-Dollar Reference Rate, which provides a daily benchmark price in U.S. dollars at 4 p.m. London time, and CME CF Ether-Dollar Real-Time Index, which allows users access to a real-time Ether price in U.S. dollars. Both reference rates will be calculated by Crypto Facilities based on transactions and order book activity from Kraken and Bitstamp.[14]

The CME released a notice on July 5, 2019 that it changed its reference rate and index tied to Ether. The statement said that itBit would provide pricing data. Someone close to the matter told The Block that this move indicated preparation for Ether futures.[15][16]

On December 16, 2020 the CME announced the launch of its Ether futures contract on February 8, 2021. The contract size is 50 Ether and settles in cash to the CME CF Ether-Dollar Reference Rate on the last day of trading. The exchange lists monthly contracts up to six months into the future as well as the nearest two Decembers.[17] Trading volume on the first trading day, February 8, was 388 contracts. Open interest at the end of the first day's trading session was 288 contracts.[18]