Hedge funds and other big traders are betting that bitcoin will fall, even as the digital currency has risen above $11,000 on a new wave of crypto-optimism.
That is the picture that emerges from bitcoin futures listed on CME Group Inc., (CME) the biggest U.S. exchange operator. Futures are contracts that let traders bet on whether an asset—in this case, bitcoin—will rise or fall.
Hedge funds and other money managers held about 14% more bearish “short” positions in CME bitcoin futures last week than they did bullish “long” positions, according to a recent Commodity Futures Trading Commission report.
Other large traders were even more bearish. “Other reportables”—a loose category of firms that don’t necessarily manage money for outside investors—held more than three times as many short positions in bitcoin futures as long ones, the CFTC report shows.
So who is the optimist? The report shows it is mostly small investors taking the other side of the trade. Among traders with fewer than 25 bitcoin contracts, a category that likely captures many individuals placing bets in bitcoin, long wagers outnumbered short bets by 4 to 1.
“Traditional market participants may be more skeptical of [bitcoin] than millennial day traders,” said George Michalopoulos, a portfolio manager with Chicago fund manager Typhon Capital Management LLC, although he stressed that his views were speculative and that it is hard to know what is driving the CFTC’s numbers.