Bitcoin’s spot ETFs make a splash, but can their AUM surpass gold ETFs?


The surge of spot Bitcoin (BTC) exchange-traded funds (ETFs) has become a focal point in financial markets, fueling speculation about their potential to outshine traditional assets like gold. ETFs are conveniently bought and sold on regular stock exchanges, simplifying the process for everyday investors to trade Bitcoin using their standard brokerage accounts. 

Another benefit is these instruments are subject to regulatory oversight, breaking down barriers for mutual funds and professional finance managers who were previously unable to directly hold and manage digital assets.

Impact of spot ETF Bitcoin on the underlying spot market

ETFs have a unique way of maintaining their prices in line with the value of the assets they represent, involving a process called creation and redemption. This process plays a crucial role in managing the number of ETF shares available in the market and ensuring that the ETF price stays closely tied to the value of the assets it represents.

Similar to the prices of other items that can be bought and sold, the price of an ETF is influenced by how much people want to buy it (demand) and how much people want to sell it (supply). Sometimes, the demand for an ETF can be very high or very low, causing its price to move away from the actual value of the assets it holds.

To prevent significant differences between the ETF price and the value of its assets, there are special players in the financial world called authorized participants. These participants have the ability to create or redeem ETF shares based on market demand. Creating new shares increases the supply, and redeeming shares decreases it. By doing this, they can help keep the ETF price in check and avoid significant deviations from the true value of the assets it represents.

Spot Bitcoin ETFs surpass expectations in volumes

Trading for spot Bitcoin ETFs began on Jan. 11, and these products amassed a record-high $14 billion in volume in the first 5 days, a feat unmatched by other commodity ETFs.

As highlighted by Eric Balchunas, Bloomberg’s senior ETF analyst, the only asset class that outshone Bitcoin in terms of volumes was the one tracking either the S&P 500 or the Nasdaq-100 indexes. To put things in perspective, the U.S. stock market capitalization stands at $52 trillion, more than 60 times larger than Bitcoin’s $810 billion.

More importantly, the combined assets under management (AUM) of Bitcoin’s spot ETF issuers stand at $28 billion, surpassing the sum of silver, crude oil, and broad diversified commodities—leaving gold as the only remaining competitor.

A post on X social network by James Van Straten, lead analyst at CryptoSlate, depicts the precious metal gold as the absolute leader in the commodities segment, holding $96 billion worth under its ETF instruments.

However, the AUM of Bitcoin ETFs currently represents only 3.5% of Bitcoin’s current market capitalization. In contrast, even if one excludes the 63% of gold’s AUM used in jewelry, coins, electronics, and other applications, its ETF industry encompasses merely 2% of gold’s remaining $5 trillion market capitalization.

Gold is not the only direct competitor in the ETF industry

While the growth of Bitcoin ETFs has outpaced that of commodities-based ETFs, the bond market tells a different story, amassing an impressive $2 trillion in AUM globally. Similarly, the S&P 500 ETF industry’s AUM surpasses $1 trillion, underscoring the enduring appeal of traditional equities.

Related: Impact of Bitcoin ETFs: ‘Revolutionary change’ or colossal ‘dud’?

While Bitcoin ETFs haven’t surpassed gold’s market cap, the recent growth signals a compelling narrative. The comparison with commodities like oil, silver, and gold underscores Bitcoin’s growing influence as a legitimate asset class.

As Bitcoin matures, the potential for a market cap above $1 trillion becomes increasingly plausible, affirming its position as a transformative force in the financial realm.