Notional open interest on CME has risen to $3.54 billion, the second-highest among exchanges offering trading in standard bitcoin and perpetual futures.

Analysts are split on whether the CME’s rise represents increased institutional buying.

The regulated Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) is climbing ranks on the list of largest bitcoin (BTC) futures and perpetual futures exchanges by open interest in a move reminiscent of the early stages of the 2020-21 bull run.

With a notional open interest (OI) of $3.54 billion, CME is now the second-largest bitcoin futures exchange, up from the fourth position seen weeks ago, according to Coinglass. Notional open interest refers to the U.S. dollar value locked in the number of active or open contracts.

Keeping the top spot is the offshore unregulated exchange Binance, with an open interest of $3.83 billion. That’s 8% higher than the CME.

Open interest in CME’s cash-settled futures contracts recently surpassed the 100,000 BTC mark for the first time on record. Similarly, the CME’s share in the BTC futures market rose to a new lifetime high of 25%.

CME’s standard bitcoin futures contract is equivalent to 5 BTC, while the micro contract is sized at one-tenth of 1 BTC. The standard ether futures have a contract size of 50 ETH, while micro futures are equivalent to one-tenth of 1 ETH. Most open interest in offshore exchanges is concentrated in perpetual futures rather than traditional futures contracts. Perpetuals are futures with no expiry and use the funding rate mechanism to keep perpetuals in sync with the spot price.

Per some observers, CME’s ascent is a sign of an institutional-led rally. Bitcoin has risen 27% this month amid lingering macroeconomic uncertainty and spot ETF optimism.

Retail investors, too, seem to have played their part, as evidenced by the uptick in the futures-based ETFs. The rolling five-day volume in ProShares’ industry-leading bitcoin futures ETF jumped by a staggering 420% to $340 million last week, according to data provided by Matrixport. The ProShares ETF invests in the CME bitcoin futures.

André Dragosch, head of research at Deutsche Digital Assets, suggests otherwise. Per Dragosch, CME’s rise results from the unwinding of bearish bets on offshore exchanges.

“CME’s share in $BTC futures OI might have increased relative to other exchanges, but the aggregate amount of BTC futures & perps OI has not increased in BTC terms, implying that long futures positions were not the main driver behind the recent surge,” Dragosch said on X.

“Price spike was rather induced by short squeeze w/ a reduction in aggregate open interest,” Dragosch added.

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