A representation of Ethereum, with its native cryptocurrency ether
The price of ether has jumped more than 20% since anticipation of the approval began to spread through markets © Reuters

The US Securities and Exchange Commission has paved the way for the potential launch of eight exchange traded funds tied to the world’s second-largest digital coin, following the regulator’s approval of the first bitcoin ETFs earlier this year.

The regulator on Thursday approved rule changes in support of ETFs that invest in ether, the native cryptocurrency of the ethereum blockchain, for several groups including BlackRock, Fidelity, Invesco and Ark Invest. A second round of approvals will be needed before the products can launch.

Widespread anticipation of the approvals has sent ether’s price soaring more than 20 per cent since Monday and more than 60 per cent year-to-date.

It is a significant regulatory shift for the SEC after months of silence on the issue. On Monday the SEC suddenly gave feedback to issuers and exchanges on the pending applications, sparking a flurry of paperwork and revisions. The SEC had faced deadlines of Thursday and Friday to respond to ether ETF applications from VanEck and Ark, respectively, according to data from Bloomberg Intelligence.

“This is a key step to offering Ethereum access through the ETF structure, which will offer US investors easier access, higher protection and safeguards,” Invesco and Galaxy, a digital assets group, said in a statement on Thursday evening. “We hope this approval indicates a willingness by the SEC to approve the launch of these products.”

“I think most of us were resigned to a disapproval order coming down the pike,” said Katherine Dowling, general counsel for Bitwise Asset Management, one of 11 US bitcoin ETF issuers and which has filed to launch an ether ETF.

It is unclear if and when the SEC will grant the second round of approvals needed before the products can launch.

Line chart of Bloomberg Galaxy Ethereum index showing Ethereum soars as SEC gives OK

SEC chair Gary Gensler on Thursday morning explained his reticence to allowing crypto investment products to launch on the US market at an Investment Company Institute conference. He alluded to the myriad fraud cases that have affected the crypto industry, such as that of FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried, who in March was sentenced to 25 years in prison in connection with the billions of dollars that went missing from his cryptocurrency exchange.

“It comes down to the rampant non-compliance with US law,” Gensler told ICI chief executive Eric Pan. “It comes down to the frauds and scams. This is a field where some of the leading lights of the field are either now in jail, awaiting jail, awaiting extradition.”

The SEC last year lost a court battle with Grayscale Investments over the asset manager’s push to convert its flagship bitcoin trust into an ETF. After that decision, the regulator — with apparent reluctance — approved Grayscale’s bitcoin product and 10 other new ETF launches earlier this year.

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