• The returns of Amplify Investments’ Transformational Data Sharing ETF (BLOK) total about 35% in the trailing year, while bitcoin’s price is up 115% over that time
  • The stock prices of companies NVIDIA and Silvergate have both surged by about 130% in the past 12 months, according to Google Finance data

With no ETFs available in the US that invest directly in cryptocurrencies, some investors have sought exposure to digital assets through funds holding stocks considered to be correlated to the crypto and blockchain spaces. 

But how did the returns of such ETFs – and the companies they hold – compare to bitcoin itself?

Bitcoin’s price has increased by about 115% in the past 12 months, as of 3:30 pm ET on Dec. 23, according to CoinGecko. It stood at about $51,150 at that time.

Amplify Investments’ Transformational Data Sharing ETF (BLOK), which has more than $1.3 billion assets, primarily invests in companies developing and using blockchain technologies. 

BLOK’s top 10 holdings are NVIDIA Corporation, Coinbase, Silvergate, CME Group, SBI Holdings, MicroStrategy, Galaxy Digital, PayPal Holdings, Hut 8 Mining Corp and Hive Blockchain Technologies. 

The fund has returned nearly 35% in the trailing 12 months, as of Dec. 22, according to FactSet data. 

Amplify’s offering launched in January 2018, just days before two competing funds: the Siren Nasdaq NexGen Economy ETF (BLCN) and the First Trust Indxx Innovative Transaction and Process ETF (LEGR). 

BLOK’s year-to-date returns compare favorably to BLCN and LEGR, which have roughly $260 million and $145 million assets under management, respectively. BLCN has returned 8.1% over the last year, while LEGR’s returns over that span total about 19.6%.

Nate Geraci, president of The ETF Store, told Blockworks that the performance of various blockchain ETFs has been “a mixed bag,” but called the returns of such products disappointing overall.

“The universe of blockchain ETFs has mostly underperformed the spot price of bitcoin, in some cases rather significantly,” Geraci said. “Unfortunately, the SEC has allowed these products to proliferate instead of approving a spot bitcoin ETF – a disservice to investors seeking bitcoin price exposure in their existing brokerage and retirement accounts.”

More recently launched ETFs that hold crypto-related stocks include Bitwise Asset Management’s Crypto Industry Innovators ETF (BITQ), which launched in May, and Invesco’s Alerian Galaxy Crypto Economy ETF (SATO), which began trading in October.

BITQ, which has roughly $125 million in assets, has returned -24% in the last month, while SATO, which has about $10 million assets, has returned -22%. Bitcoin’s price is down about 10% from 30 days ago, Coingecko data shows.

Individual stocks 

California-based NVIDIA is a technology company that sells crypto mining products. The company’s stock price, which has a roughly 5% weighting in BLOK’s portfolio, was up 128% from 12 months ago, as of Thursday afternoon, according to Google Finance data. 

Like NVIDIA, Silvergate has also seen its stock price rise more than bitcoin over the past year, surging by 134%. Bitcoin mining companies Marathon Digital and Hut 8 Mining have seen their stock prices increase by 250% and 244%, respectively, from 12 months ago.

The stock prices of CME Group, SBI Holdings and MicroStrategy have increased by about 37%, 2%, and 74%, respectively, over the span.

MicroStrategy held about 121,000 bitcoin, as of the end of November.

Coinbase went public in April, becoming the first cryptocurrency exchange platform to do so. Its stock price is up roughly 16% in the last six months, according to Google Finance, while bitcoin’s price is up about 60% over that period. 

Bill Miller, the founder, chairman and chief investment officer of Miller Value Partners, said during a conversation with author William Green in October that Coinbase could be “the default position for growth investors” that want exposure to the crypto market without investing directly in crypto assets. 

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  • Ben Strack is a Denver-based reporter covering macro and crypto-native funds, financial advisors, structured products, and the integration of digital assets and decentralized finance (DeFi) into traditional finance. Prior to joining Blockworks, he covered the asset management industry for Fund Intelligence and was a reporter and editor for various local newspapers on Long Island. He graduated from the University of Maryland with a degree in journalism. Contact Ben via email at [email protected]