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SEC delays decision on approving bitcoin ETF

The Securities and Exchange Commission on Wednesday delayed its decision on approving the VanEck Bitcoin ETF until June as the regulator’s new chief begins to review high-profile asset applications.

The SEC typically takes 45 days from when an application is filed to render a decision on whether such a security should be allowed to trade. The 45 day window for the VanEck Bitcoin ETF ends on May 3, but the SEC is extending the deadline.

“The Commission finds that it is appropriate to designate a longer period within which to take action on the proposed rule change so that it has sufficient time to consider the proposed rule change and the comments received,” J. Matthew DeLesDernier, Assistant Secretary at the SEC, said in a filing.

While bitcoin ETFs exist in the U.S., they do not directly own bitcoin. They own portfolios of stocks deemed to have exposure to blockchain technology. Some bitcoin watchers believe 2021 could finally be the year a bitcoin ETF is approved thanks to the Senate’s confirmation of Gary Gensler to lead Wall Street’s top regulator.

Gensler, approved by the Senate earlier this month to lead the SEC, is considered an expert on cryptocurrency and has taught courses on digital currencies and blockchain at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Questioned in March how the SEC should regulate bitcoin and other digital assets, Gensler told lawmakers that the responsibility could fall across the government depending on how assets such as bitcoin are classified.

In the past, the SEC said it was worried about extreme price volatility and fraud in cryptocurrencies. It also noted that 75% of bitcoin trading occurs overseas on unregulated foreign exchanges that could be manipulated.

The price of bitcoin and other digital assets have soared in 2021 as a growing number of investment managers and banks grow comfortable considering it as both a potential investment opportunity and a medium of exchange.

Though the world’s largest digital asset has struggled in recent weeks, its current price around $54,400 is far above where it traded one year ago under $10,000, according to Coin Metrics.

Following VanEck, Fidelity in March disclosed in a government filing that it’s working to launch its own bitcoin ETF.

— with reporting from CNBC’s Bob Pisani.

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