CME to start offering options on bitcoin futures early next year

NEW YORK (Reuters) - CME Group, the world’s largest futures exchange operator, said on Friday it plans to launch options on its bitcoin futures contracts in the first quarter of 2020, giving traders another way to hedge their risk in the cryptocurrency.

CME launched bitcoin futures in December 2017 and has signed up 3,300 individual accounts and had 20 successful expiration settlements since then, the company said.

“These new products are designed to help institutions and professional traders to manage spot market bitcoin exposure, as well as hedge bitcoin futures positions in a regulated exchange environment,” said Tim McCourt, global head of equity index and alternative investment products at CME.

Bitcoin, which was created in 2008 as an alternative to government-backed currencies, has been notoriously volatile, surging to an all-time high of nearly $20,000 in late 2017 before plunging in 2018 to end the year at less than $4,000. The digital currency was trading at $10,134.99 around midday on Friday.

Nearly 7,000 bitcoin futures contracts, equal to around 35,000 bitcoin, have traded on average each day on CME so far this year, the Chicago-based company said.

New York Stock Exchange owner Intercontinental Exchange Inc plans to begin offering physically-delivered bitcoin futures contracts on Monday through its long-awaited crypto-trading platform, Bakkt.

Reporting by John McCrank; Editing by David Gregorio