Bitcoin edged closer towards being seen as a mainstream financial investment on Sunday after the launch of futures contracts tied to the cryptocurrency’s price.
The world’s biggest exchange operator by value, CME Group, launched the futures, which allow traders to bet on the future value of bitcoin. Around $50m of contracts changed hands in the first three hours of trading.
CME’s contract will compete with rival Cboe Global Markets which launched its own bitcoin futures earlier this month.
A January-expiry contract on Cboe’s exchange was trading at $19,540, indicating that traders expect a slight increase in bitcoin’s price over the next month from its current level of $19,195. The equivalent CME contract was at $19,645.
Bitcoin closed in on the $20,000 mark on Sunday before falling back on Monday. Its value has surged almost 20 times since the start of the year when one bitcoin cost £969.
The futures launch came as French finance minister Bruno Le Maire indicated that he would push for regulation of bitcoin.
“I am going to propose to the next G20 president, Argentina, that at the G20 summit in April we have a discussion all together on the question of bitcoin,” Mr Le Maire said, according to Reuters.
“There is evidently a risk of speculation. We need to consider and examine this and see how (…) with all the other G20 members we can regulate bitcoin.”
The EU and the UK Government have both indicated that they are concerned about the unregulated cryptocurrency’s use in money laundering and tax evasion.
“We are working to address concerns about the use of cryptocurrencies by negotiating to bring virtual currency exchange platforms and some wallet providers within anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing regulation,” the Treasury said in a statement earlier this month.
Many high-profile financial figures have warned investors that bitcoin is experiencing a bubble that is at risk of bursting, leaving many people out of pocket.