Measuring Bitcoin ETF Liquidity Through the 2024-25 Detroit Lions

Trading volumes for spot bitcoin ETFs have been the talk of the industry. David Mann, our Head of Global ETF Product and Capital Markets, offers his take on how best to evaluate the liquidity of these ETFs via his favorite NFL team.

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The 2024 exchange-traded funds (ETF) “story of the year” has been the meteoric adoption rate of the nine spot bitcoin ETFs that launched January 11, 2024. Through the end of February, combined net inflows for these ETFs reached US$16 billion, with a notional trading volume of US$45 billion.1 Given that all these funds hold the same thing (bitcoins), with many issuers waiving fees to zero and tracking similar benchmarks, investors have turned to measuring stats associated with “liquidity” as a way to differentiate. Not surprisingly, many of the misconceptions for measuring ETF liquidity that I’ve discussed previously have resurfaced. I am going to discuss those here, while also acknowledging some bitcoin-specific wrinkles.

Lastly, I checked in with my son on the best way to make the spot bitcoin ETF liquidity story relatable for all readers. Per his instructions, I’ll use the Detroit Lions’ chances of winning the 2025 Super Bowl as the perfect analogy.

My very first blog post back in 2016 discussed the misconceptions of using average trading volume as an accurate gauge of an ETF’s liquidity. Before discussing trading volume, I want to clear a few other ETF metrics off the spot bitcoin ETF comparison board:

  • Bid/Ask Spread: Per each ETF’s website, most of these new ETFs trade at a penny spread, meaning that the difference between the bid and the ask price of a spot bitcoin ETF share is just one cent.
  • AUM: I would also remove assets under management (AUM) from the ETF liquidity conversation—AUM is an important consideration relating to percent of ownership limits, not the ability to buy and sell bitcoins or the cost associated to doing so.