Navigating Bitcoin Sell-Offs Amid Seizing ETF Discounts During Market Volatility

Rameesha Sajwar
By Rameesha Sajwar 1 comment
5 Min Read
Bitcoin sell-offs

The crypto update of Bitcoin’s latest dramatic sell-off could present a rare opportunity for buyers to scoop up Bitcoin ETF shares at bargain prices. Spot Bitcoin (BTC) prices allegedly tumbled to a four-month low on Friday, around $53,500, as markets braced for billions of dollars in impending BTC liquidations by Germany’s government and Mt. Gox, the defunct Japanese crypto exchange. Share prices of top BTC ETFs are already feeling the heat. If market volatility continues, they may soon sell at attractive discounts, which will worsen the rate of the already massive Bitcoin sell-offs.

Premiums and Market Makers: How Bitcoin ETFs Operate and Their Vulnerabilities Amid Bitcoin Sell-Offs

Bitcoin ETFs — such as Franklin Templeton Digital Holdings Trust (EZBC), VanEck Bitcoin Trust (HODL), and iShares Bitcoin Trust (IBIT) — have emerged as the new gold standard for spot BTC holders since U.S. regulators greenlighted the publicly traded funds in January. However, the funds’ robust investor protections and security protocols have come at a cost. Shares of BTC ETFs have traded at persistent premiums to net asset value (NAV) — the value of a fund’s underlying spot BTC holdings — since inception, as institutional capital poured into the hot new asset class. As of early July, shares of the top five Bitcoin funds traded at an average premium of almost 1%.

ETFs depend entirely on a select group of professional market makers called “authorized participants” to keep ETF share prices in line with the fund’s underlying NAV. They are the only traders permitted to exchange and redeem BTC ETF shares for spot BTC, profiting from intraday pricing spreads. For now, only a handful of APs are equipped to handle BTC spot trading, making ETF shares uniquely vulnerable to sharp price swings in volatile markets. Bitcoin sell-offs amplify this volatility.

Arbitrage Avenues and Historical Precedents in Bitcoin Sell-Offs

Seasoned BTC traders are not strangers to cashing in on NAV discounts. In late 2022, shares of Grayscale Bitcoin Trust (GBTC), the pioneering Bitcoin fund, reportedly traded at discounts approaching 50% of NAV on investor concerns that the fund — which at the time used a less-liquid fund structure — would never get regulatory sign-off to convert to an ETF. Traders that bet otherwise saw unprecedented gains from a “buy one, get one free” Bitcoin sale. Grayscale’s ETF application was approved in January, and GBTC now trades at a 0.04% premium. Hedge funds, including Fir Tree Partners and Hunting Hill, allegedly locked in discounts exceeding 40%.

Bitcoin’s sell-offs
Bitcoin sell-offs

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Germany’s and Mt. Gox’s ongoing liquidations threaten to bring billions of dollars of sustained selling pressure over the coming months. The resultant volatility and the wider ETF price swings that follow could open up attractive arbitrage opportunities for traders. Bitcoin sell-offs are poised to create such opportunities.

Bitcoin Sell-Offs: What Traders Can Expect

Don’t hold your breath if you’re waiting for a Grayscale-sized arbitrage to come around again. The circumstances behind GBTC’s mega-spread are unlikely to repeat themselves. Regulatory approval of BTC ETFs has vastly improved liquidity in public markets. Institutional investors are also wising up to BTC’s value proposition. Bitcoin funds have already seen $398 million in net inflows since the sell-off. However, significant opportunities may still await savvy traders.

In May, shares of BlackRock’s IBIT ETF briefly dipped to a discount of almost 2% as institutional holders undertook end-of-month rebalances amid a volatile market. Other funds — including FBTC, BITB, and ARK 21Shares Bitcoin ETF (ARKB) — traded at discounts of nearly 1.5% simultaneously. With Germany’s government and Mt. Gox preparing to dump billions of dollars of BTC, heightened market volatility is inevitable. Bitcoin sell-offs will likely continue influencing these price swings.

Market Watch for Arbitrages

According to news sources, it will be wise to watch for similarly sized ETF arbitrages in the coming months and pay special attention to EZBC, HODL, and IBIT. These ETFs, all sponsored by blue-chip asset managers, are offering steep discounts on management fees, in some cases waiving fees completely until 2025. Traders willing to look past today’s choppy waters stand to benefit. 

Staying updated on Bitcoin sell-offs with reliable sources like The BIT Journal will ensure investors make informed decisions in this dynamic environment and how this affects other major players like Ethereum (ETH). 



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