The Bitcoin futures contract on the CME will have cash settlement, not Bitcoin settlement.
Tyler asks, "What should you infer from that?"
Well, apparently my mind has been cogitating on this one. Matt Levine sets it up in the article this way:
Ha, it's true. If you buy an oil futures contract on the CME, and you hold it when it expires, then someone hands you 1,000 barrels of oil, and you have to find a place to put them. If you buy a bitcoin futures contract, and you hold it when it expires, nobody hands you the 5 bitcoins underlying the contract. Instead, CME computes a daily "Bitcoin Reference Rate," "which aggregates the trade flow of major bitcoin spot exchanges during a calculation window into the U.S. Dollar price of one bitcoin as of 4:00 p.m. London time," and if the Bitcoin Reference Rate at the expiry of your futures contract is higher than the Bitcoin Reference Rate when you opened the contract, you get paid the difference (times 5), and vice versa. In dollars. You get exposure to bitcoin without ever actually handling bitcoins.
So, these futures contracts aren't futures contracts at all, but tools for global finance to fight back against bitcoin. In other words, they don't have to buy bitcoin while attempting to manipulate the bitcoin price.
I vaguely remember various speculations about financial and/or state action in particular markets- especially gold, oil- markets taken as indicators of general economic health- meant to prop up the current system. Well, these new bitcoin futures are arguably not futures at all, but tools actually designed to push bitcoin lower.
I wonder if these guys are just going to try and take it down, or will they attempt to drop the price, and then buy bitcoins when they are cheap.