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JAN 15, 2024

Spot bitcoin ETF approval triggers surge and shift in Korean crypto exchange performances

by CoinNess Global

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) approved the spot bitcoin exchange-traded fund (ETF) last Tuesday, prompting South Korean investors to flock to cryptocurrency exchanges to make transactions. However, the revenues recorded by these exchanges showed a mixed performance in response to this development due to their differing transaction fee policies, according to local news outlet DealSite on Monday.

Trading volumes surge and retreat

According to crypto analytics platform CoinGecko, as of 9 a.m. on Jan. 12 (KST), Upbit's trading volume on Dec. 11 and 12 was approximately $5.1 billion and $6.1 billion, respectively, for a total of about $11 billion. During the same period, Bithumb recorded $2.6 billion and $2.4 billion, respectively, totaling nearly $5 billion. However, as of this writing at 11 a.m. on Jan. 15, Upbit’s 24-hour trading volume has dropped back down to $2.1 billion and Bithumb to $874 million.
"After the SEC's approval, crypto exchanges were simultaneously flooded with transactions," an anonymous industry employee commented. "Bitcoin and Ethereum were mainly traded."

Fee divergence

Although the ETF approval caused a general uptick in trading volumes, the amount of revenue that the exchanges earned from transaction fees varied. Upbit charges a fee of 0.05% for both buying and selling crypto, meaning the exchange made an estimated KRW 14.8 billion in revenue from the fees from Dec. 11 to 12.
Bithumb, on the other hand, hasn't earned any revenue from trading fees since its zero-fee policy was implemented in October last year. 
Bithumb had previously charged 0.25% for transactions and 0.04% with coupons. By implementing the former, the exchange lost about KRW 15.8 billion ($12 million) in revenue, and with the latter, it lost about KRW 2.5 billion. For crypto investors, Bithumb's zero-fee policy has made investing more accessible, but the exchange is unlikely to reap its own rewards.

Significant investor interest

Moreover, with trading for the spot bitcoin ETF beginning on the 11th, the influx of funds is expected to boost trading. "All told there were 700,000 individual trades today in and out of the 11 spot ETFs," Bloomberg ETF analyst Eric Balchunas told X (formerly Twitter). "For context, that is double the number of trades for $QQQ." $QQQ refers to the Invesco QQQ ETF.
According to an image that accompanied Balchunas’ post, the total trading volume across all 11 spot ETFs was reportedly $4.3 billion. Grayscale's GBTC had the highest volume at $2.1 billion, followed by BlackRock’s IBIT at $1 billion and Fidelity’s FBTC at $673 million.
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