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Bitwise joins the race to launch SEC-regulated cryptocurrency ETF

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San Francisco-based asset manager Bitwise is joining the race to launch a regulated ETF for cryptocurrency, which if approved could help struggling bitcoin prices.

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The company filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission Tuesday for an exchange traded fund that would track an a basket of 10 cryptocurrencies, including bitcoin.

The U.S. financial watchdog has yet to approve a cryptocurrency-based ETF. Rumors that it could say yes to another application filed by money manager VanEck and SolidX as soon as August helped bitcoin break above the $8,000 mark this week.

“We’re joining the queue,” Matt Hougan, Bitwise global head of research told CNBC. “The market is professionalizing in a direction that the SEC would allow a crytpo ETF onto the market.”

Exchange-traded funds usually track an index or group of assets but trade like stocks. While other companies, including VanEck, SolidX and Gemini, have filed for bitcoin-only ETFs, Bitwise is the first and only to apply for one that would track multiple digital assets.

In 2017, the SEC rejected an application by Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, founders of crypto exchange Gemini. After VanEck and SolidX had their applications rejected, the two companies joined forces to file another version in June for an ETF to be called VanEck SolidX Bitcoin Shares. That version is under review, and rumors of its approval have added to investor optimism and bitcoin’s 20 percent rebound this week.

Bitwise launched the the first crypto index fund in November, which is not registered with the SEC. That index is technically a private placement vehicle, which excludes retail investors and is meant for accredited investors with at least $1 million in liquid assets.

The SEC and other regulators have been hesitant to approve bitcoin ETFs, mostly for security concerns. The agency has cracked down on cryptocurrency-related fraud in the past year, with a series of investor bulletins, stock trading suspensions and initial coin offering halts.

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