[NEW YORK] The parent company of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) will from Sunday offer investors the option to trade Bitcoin, giving the pioneer cryptocurrency further mainstream recognition.
Operations will begin at the opening of the electronic financial market at 8.00pm in New York (0000 GMT).
Brokers will then be allowed to trade futures contracts on one of the Intercontinental Exchange's (ICE) platforms, by betting on increases or decreases in the currency's value, just as with oil or gold.
The cryptocurrency has been trading at around US$10,000 per bitcoin.
ICE's virtual currency subsidiary, Bakkt, will lead the operation. Launched in August 2018, Bakkt was supposed to begin trading last November but the project was delayed.
It was already possible to buy and sell Bitcoin directly on multiple smaller platforms, but those lacked the historic and official legitimacy of the ICE.
Another major stock exchange - the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) - has since the end of 2017 also offered trading in cryptocurrency futures.
About 7,000 such futures have been traded per day since the beginning of the year, worth a total of more than US$350 million per day, at the current value.
But when the CME's futures contracts expire, clients receive the dollar equivalent of the Bitcoin value. The idea is to prevent investors from owning Bitcoins themselves.
Bakkt's products are different in that brokers receive Bitcoins directly. They can then decide whether or not to entrust the Bitcoins to Bakkt, in a sort of secure virtual warehouse.
"Providing a trusted ecosystem is our first objective," Bakkt CEO Kelly Loeffler said in a mid-August statement just after American authorities gave final approval.
Bakkt hopes to overcome the reluctance of institutional investors, who remain wary of highly volatile virtual currency.
The company is launching its products before the arrival of Libra, the Facebook-backed cryptocurrency promised for 2020 that has sparked mounting international outcry among central banks, governments and regulators.