The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) finally approved spot Bitcoin exchange-traded funds (ETFs) on Wednesday, and now optimism about the prospects of a spot Ethereum ETF approval is driving a rally in ETH prices.
ETH prices were up about as much as 9% over the last 24 hours before settling slightly. As with Bitcoin, futures ETF products based on Ethereum have already been approved and launched, while applications for spot ETF investments are awaiting a decision by the SEC.
“ETH’s recent outperformance relative to BTC is a nod to the market’s anticipation of a spot ETF approval,” Mark Connors, head of research at Canadian digital asset management firm 3iQ, told Unchained in an email.
Bitcoin was roughly flat over the last 24 hours after gaining as much as 6%, but optimism about a spot Bitcoin ETF has been driving prices up higher for some time now, with Bitcoin rising more than 80% since BlackRock and Fidelity first stoked enthusiasm last June by filing their ETF applications. Overall, Bitcoin has gained about 174% over the last year, compared to Ethereum’s gain of about 99%, according to CoinMarketCap.
According to analysts, this disparity is largely due to the fact that the narrative driving Bitcoin’s rally — optimism around the spot Bitcoin ETF approvals— directly relates to Bitcoin rather than crypto as a whole. But now that attention is shifting to ETH ETF approvals, will ETH experience the same type of huge rally?
“I would say that it’s not going to be the exact same because Bitcoin’s qualities are more fundamentally oriented towards gold where it is secure, it is a stored value. It is a money,” said Connors., He later noted that Ethereum is more of a decentralized, dynamic platform than Bitcoin.
After approving a slate of Ethereum futures-based ETFs late last year, the SEC now has until May to decide on spot ETFs, including offerings from VanEck, ARK Invest 21Shares, and BlackRock.
“Investors are waiting for the spot ETFs for Ethereum exposure,” said Neena Mishra, ETF research director at Zacks Investment Research, during a call with Unchained. “Ethereum futures ETFs made their debut late last year, and we’ve seen almost no interest from investors. That was not a surprise because investors want the real thing.”
SEC Chair Gary Gensler has said that Bitcoin is the only digital asset that isn’t a security, which could make it harder for Ethereum to get approved. But Mishra doesn’t think that stance will stand in the way of spot ether ETF approvals since the futures-based ETFs positioned Ethereum as a commodity. Gensler was also hesitant about the spot Bitcoin ETFs, as evidenced when he posted an X thread warning about the risks of crypto investments earlier this week, but the approvals still happened.
“I see very low chances of [the SEC] not approving the spot Ethereum ETFs,” Mishra noted.