By: Steve Smith
It was just a few days ago I wrote about the CME getting to launch Bitcoin Futures, with my opinion being the exchange was simply looking for a new hot contract to generate trading volume. This would create fees and profits without serving any true economic purpose.
Now rival exchange ICE Exchange is introducing FANG futures, which seems to have even less of a purpose. At least Bitcoin wasn’t yet listed on a mainstream exchange or easily accessible for trading through most people’s standard brokerage accounts.
But FANG futures is a basket of 10 stocks, including Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Netflix and Tesla among others. I think we can all agree that these are already easily accessible and actively traded.
What was the spark to launch an index? As I’ve said before, since going public back in the early 2000’s, these exchanges have been in business of making money. So, as interest in traditional products such as gold or soybeans has waned, they need to launch new products. And when a success like VIX futures over at the CBOE hits the jackpot, it encourages other exchanges to adopt a “build it and they will trade it” mentality.
The Fang futures seem to be a response to a general lack of market volatility. Instead of waiting for volatility that may not emerge for quite some time, the thought is to combine some of the most actively traded issues into one sandbox—even if they don’t normally play together. I mean, what does Tesla have to do with Twitter, aside from Elon Musk occasionally trolling the shorts on Twitter and hoping for a general chaos to ensue.
Even Christopher Edmonds, Senior Vice President of Financial Markets, acknowledged this hope in his description of the contract launch:
FANG+ includes more than just the five stocks that make up the acronym (actually that’s FAANG, and actually – it would be FAANA, as Google is now Alphabet, but we digress). FANG+ will also include five other tech stocks (10 total) like Tesla and Baidu to better represent all of the top tech companies, in a move designed to bring more diversification to the index, but also to avoid the joint SEC/CFTC jurisdiction by being a broad-based index under the jurisdiction of the CFTC alone.
So basically, they want to loosen the restrictions on trading some of what are already the mostly widely held stocks to allow increased speculation that will have nothing to do with company fundamentals.
It’s ironic; the CME hopes to use futures contracts to legitimize Bitcoin as an asset class and not just a trading vehicle. The ICE hopes to use futures to turn the most stable investments into unregulated tools of speculation.
As always, it’s usually the house, or in this case the exchanges, that wins.