Spot Bitcoin ETF Flows Fall Again as Halving Nears

Grayscale's GBTC streak of outflows have outstripped gains from other spot bitcoin funds this week.

ETF.com
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Contributing Editor
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Reviewed by: etf.com Staff
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Edited by: Ron Day

U.S. spot bitcoin ETFs suffered outflows for a fifth day straight on Thursday, a result of the continued exodus of assets from the Grayscale Bitcoin Trust (GBTC) and lessening flows into other leading funds, and despite the upcoming bitcoin halving event that has typically helped the cryptocurrency.

Outflows from the 11 new products totaled more than $4 million, according to provisional data provided by UK-based investment management firm, Farside Investors. 

GBTC, which has the most assets under management of the spot bitcoin ETFs, endured $90 million in outflows for the day, continuing its own lengthier streak of outflows. Outflows to GBTC have reached more than $16.6 billion since it started trading as an ETF on Jan. 11, a day after initial SEC approvals of the ETFs. The fund is a conversion from a trust that carries the highest fee among the new products. 

The Fidelity Wise Origin Bitcoin Trust (FBTC) generated more than $37 million in inflows, the most among the funds that have started trading since the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) issued an initial wave of product approvals in early January, according to Farside. Inflows to BlackRock's iShares Bitcoin Trust (IBIT), which has totaled the most inflows among these ETFs, added just $19 million in inflows on Thursday.

FBTC, which has stockpiled the second most inflows, and IBIT's totals the past five days have significantly lagged their performance for most of their three-month histories. FBTC and IBIT have gathered a whopping $8 billion and $15 billion in flows, respectively. 

Share prices for FBTC, IBIT and GBTC were all up about 1% in Friday midday trading. 

Halving Leaves ETFs Unstirred

The recent sagging in flows comes despite the looming arrival of the halving, a quadrennial event that will reduce the reward that miners receive for verifying transactions on the bitcoin blockchain from 6.25 to 3.125 bitcoins. Bitcoin's three previous halvings in 2012, 2016 and 2020 have spurred dramatic price gains in the ensuing months, but macroeconomic unrest, including stubbornly high U.S. inflation, have unsettled risk-on investors. 

Bitcoin was recently trading at about $63,700, roughly flat for the day and well off the all-time high of about $73,000 it set in March, according to cryptocurrency data provider CoinMarketCap. But earlier this week, it nearly dipped below $60,000 for the first time since late February. 

In note Thursday, digital assets-focused research group 10X Research suggested that bitcoin could fall to the $50,000-$52,000 range, attributing the decline to a negative funding rate. 

"The Bitcoin inflows and halving are already 'yesterday's news,'" 10X said. "Bitcoin has found a new price-determining factor. Everybody might soon have a chance to buy more Bitcoin at lower prices."

In a note to etf.com, Mark Connors, head of research at Canadian cryptocurrency asset manager 3iQ, attributed bitcoin's sag largely to conflicts in the Ukraine and Gaza and predicted that bitcoin could end the year in the $160,000 to $180,000 range. 

"Yes, the halving of the BTC block subsidy will have the same impact as the previous three halvings," he wrote, noting that presence of BlackRock, Fidelity and other financial services giants has spurred fresh interest in bitcoin. "The result is a more demand-driven dynamic for BTC price, as investors search for shelter in a 'higher-for-longer' (interest) rate regime."

James Rubin is a contributing editor for etf.com, where he produces the Morning Exchange and Weekly Exchange newsletters. A longtime financial writer, editor and book author, he formerly held positions as a news and markets editor for the Americas at CoinDesk, where he focussed on cryptocurrencies. 

He provided editorial guidance for a Wall Street Journal best-selling book on Bitcoin and oversaw a startup newsroom focused on digital financial assets. He has edited for TheStreet and Unchained, where he wrote daily news stories about the trial of fallen crypto entrepreneur Sam Bankman-Fried. His writing has also appeared in The Hollywood Reporter, Forbes.com, AdWeek, Bankrate, The Financial Brand and The Wall Street Journal. He has also written for Forbes Insights and the Economist Intelligence Unit, including papers presented at World Economic Forums in Davos and Mumbai. 

James is the co-author of The Urban Cyclist’s Survival Guide (Triumph Books) and has been interviewed about bike safety on a number of NPR affiliates. In a prior career, Rubin was a world-ranked tennis player, once competing in Wimbledon’s qualifying rounds. He speaks fluent German and is a graduate of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and received his BA at Columbia University.