Coinbase Downgraded to Underweight; Bitcoin ETF Catalyst May Disappoint: JPMorgan

The main positive catalyst for crypto markets last year, the launch of spot bitcoin (BTC) exchange-traded funds (ETFs), has the potential to reverse and disappoint investors in 2024, JPMorgan said in a research report Monday, downgrading U.S. exchange Coinbase (COIN) to neutral.

The bank cut its rating on the stock to neutral from underweight, with an unchanged price target of $80. Coinbase shares fell 4.1% to $122.90 in premarket trading. After the stock’s 390% gain last year, 2024 could be more challenging, despite the exchange’s progress in a number of important initiatives, the bank said.

“While we continue to see Coinbase as the dominant U.S. exchange in the crypto ecosystem and a leader in cryptocurrency trading and investing globally, we think the catalyst in bitcoin ETFs that pushed the ecosystem out of its winter will disappoint market participants,” analysts led by Kenneth Worthington wrote.

The Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) approval of spot bitcoin ETFs last month was widely expected to presage a new era for cryptocurrencies, with mainstream money expected to flood into the space. The launch of these products allows investors who were prohibited from owning digital assets to now access the sector without having to own the underlying assets themselves.

“Our concern is that with such enthusiasm for a bitcoin ETF and the new flows into the cryptocurrency ecosystem that would follow, any disappointment with ETF fund flows could deflate the enthusiasm that has driven the cryptocurrency rally, largely in 2H23 and in particular since October,” the report said.

JPMorgan notes that the bitcoin price is already under pressure, having slipped below $40,000, and it sees the potential for “cryptocurrency ETF enthusiasm to further deflate, driving with it lower token prices, lower trading volume, and lower ancillary revenue opportunities” for firms such as Coinbase.

Coinbase is expected to hold similar custodian, surveillance, and trading roles for any spot ether (ETH) ETF if approved, the report added.

The world’s largest cryptocurrency has fallen in price since spot ETFs were approved, hitting a two month low on Tuesday. Now defunct crypto exchange FTX’s bankruptcy estate dumped $2 billion worth of the Grayscale Bitcoin Trust (GBTC) since its conversion to an ETF, which has added selling pressure to the underlying digital asset.

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2024-01-23 17:00