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Exchange Giant CME’s Bitcoin Futures Just Hit a Huge Discount to Spot Prices

Bitcoin (BTC) futures at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, one of the world’s biggest derivatives markets, just traded at the largest discount to spot prices in at least 2 1/2 years after a big market plunge and right before August contracts expire.

Arcane Research keeps tabs on the average difference between CME’s front-month bitcoin futures – those expiring soonest – and the current market price for bitcoin itself for rolling one-month periods. On Monday, that showed front-month futures at a 3.36% discount. That’s a record low in the firm’s dataset that goes back to Jan. 1, 2020 – though CME bitcoin futures have been trading since December 2017.

That surpassed the previous low of minus 2.39% set on July 21, 2021, which was followed by a hefty short squeeze, according to Arcane.

CME futures have traded at a discount over the last two months but witnessed a short-lived recovery at the start of the month when there was some momentum in the market. Early in August, bitcoin briefly reached $25,000. But it sank below $21,000 on Aug. 19.

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“The growing discounts in the front-month contracts might be explained in part by structural effects,” Vetle Lunde, an analyst at Arcane Research, said in a report.

The report said the ProShares Bitcoin Strategy ETF (BITO) has begun rolling its August contracts into contracts that expire later, possibly causing downward pressure on the front-month contracts. Monday, BITO rolled over 1,000 August contracts and will roll over a further 3,000 August contracts by Friday. Previous times when the exchange-traded fund rolled over exposures, front-month contracts have tended to move toward discounts to spot, according to Arcane.

“Still, such extreme discounts have not appeared during previous rolling periods,” Lunde said. “They might be a symptom of worsening liquidity or general de-risking as S&P 500 and Nasdaq see a tumultuous start to the week while the dollar strength index pushes towards new highs.”

Read more: CME Group Adds to Crypto Offerings With Ether Options