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A lot of exchanges offer a bitcoin perpetual future to allow users to speculate on the price of bitcoin. For a future with an expiry date, it makes sense that the price of the future might be higher/lower than the price of bitcoin. But for a future without an expiry date, what does it actually mean to speculate on the price of bitcoin? Why does the price of the perpetual future differ from the price of bitcoin? The price of the future are close and correlated but aren't the same. Why?

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Other than shares, bitcoins can be held directly by the owner of the asset. In contrast, a Bitcoin future is a voucher for some bitcoins issued by a third-party. As we have learned time and again, “not your keys, not your coins”. Since the two are not the same thing, it is not surprising that they may be priced differently.

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