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Argentina Aims for First Crypto Futures in Latin America

Argentina’s largest futures market wants to be the first Latin American exchange to launch regulated Bitcoin futures.
Local exchange Matba Rofex revealed last week that it submitted a proposal to Argentina’s securities regulator to launch Bitcoin futures in Argentine pesos. Talks, which began a few months ago, are on track, but the regulator has not yet ruled on the matter.

Bitcoin futures have been available for years in loosely regulated exchanges, but there are few options available in regulated markets, such as CME Group Inc., the world’s largest exchange operator. CBOE Global Markets Inc., the largest U.S. options exchange, offered Bitcoin futures from 2017 until 2019, when a crash in prices of the cryptocurrency dried up demand.

“We want to attract those clients from the regulated market that cannot operate on unregulated exchanges,” Ismael Caram, the deputy general manager of financial markets at Matba Rofex, said in a phone interview. “We perceive an incipient but continuous demand from clients, who want to add exposure in crypto assets.”

Argentina’s regulator is considering the proposal but it’s not a priority request, a spokeswoman said in response to a request for comment. The proposal will also need to be evaluated by the Economy Ministry and the Central Bank, she said when asked for comment.

Argentina is one of the nine countries with the highest adoption of cryptocurrencies, according to Chainalysis, a site specializing in crypto and blockchain. In a country with recurring currency crises and inflation running around 50% annually, two-thirds of Argentines who invest in crypto say they do so to protect their savings, according to a study by Buenos Aires-based Wunderman Thompson.

Matba Rofex’s plan is for new futures to be operated with a cash settlement on electronic platforms, just like other financial derivatives. Bitcoin futures will require higher guarantees and lower open positions than others because they’re considered to be riskier than standard derivatives, Caram said. The proposal is that investors deposit a guarantee of about 30% or 40% of the value of the contract.

The underlying asset for the new futures will be the Bitcoin price index, launched in April, which publishes the asset’s price in real time in Argentine pesos, based on 12 different local crypto exchanges. That index closed Friday at 12.3 million pesos (about $60,000 at the country’s main parallel rate, the blue-chip swap).

Matba Rofex is also weighing working on futures of other cryptocurrencies, such as Ethereum, or new instruments, such as crypto exchange-traded funds, Caram said.

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