Soon after spot Ether trading began, leveraged products on the Ether/Bitcoin (ETHXBT) appeared. BitMEX was the first exchange to offer leveraged trading via a futures contract called ETH7D. The leading spot ETHXBT exchanges Poloniex and Kraken, have just started offering margin trading. This post will explain the differences and costs of margin trading vs. futures trading of ETHXBT.
Margin trading requires that traders borrow Bitcoin to go long ETHXBT, and Ether to go short ETHXBT. Traders will then place their leveraged orders into the spot order book. The ability to borrow Bitcoin and Ether is not a sure thing. On Poloniex and Kraken other users must lend out their excess Bitcoin or Ether. If there is no supply, margin trading cannot happen. The interest rates paid are very volatile and can be expensive at times.
The BitMEX ETH7D futures contract expires weekly every Friday. Each contract is worth 1 ETH, and traders must post Bitcoin as margin to go long or short. BitMEX allows 5x leverage. This means that there is no need to borrow ETH in order to short the ETHXBT exchange rate when using ETH7D. There is no daily interest rate charged either. The difference between where you buy or sell ETH7D and the current spot ETHXBT rate at the time represents an implied interest rate. For traders who have Bitcoin, ETH7D represents the easiest and cheapest way to go both long or short with leverage on ETHXBT.