Ether might be coming close to its moment in the sun.

The world's No.2 cryptocurrency has remained in the wings this year as big brother bitcoin soared to all-time highs on the back of new U.S. exchange-traded funds meant to track its price.

But as companion ETFs for ether are set to hit the market soon, some market players predict a price rally beyond its Nov. 2021 all-time high of $4,867.60 could be on the cards.

"Consider the fact that ethereum has roughly half the level of spot liquidity," said Thomas Perfumo, head of strategy at crypto exchange Kraken, referring to ether trading on exchanges versus bitcoin. "Half the amount of liquidity means that you need less amount of absolute dollars coming into the market to make the same price impact on ethereum."

Crypto graveyards are full of investors who thought they could reliably forecast these risky, choppy markets.

The likely dumping of tokens from defunct Japanese exchange Mt. Gox has thrown a curve ball in the market in recent days, hitting bitcoin and ether. Other factors, like the timing of U.S. Federal Reserve interest rate cuts and the upcoming presidential election could also thump crypto.

"Market participants should watch for a comeback in volatility in traditional markets and crypto alike," Jag Kooner, head of derivatives at crypto exchange Bitfinex, said in a research note. "Regulatory developments and macroeconomic policies will play a crucial role in shaping market dynamics."


Bitcoin soared to new peaks in March to as high as $73,803.25, two months after the first spot bitcoin ETFs started trading, from $45,947 before the launch. By contrast, ether has remained well off of its all-time high, trading only as high as $4,093.7 in March.

That could be set to change when the ether ETFs hit the market as in the coming weeks, experts say, noting that the supply of ether is tight and that inflows into the ETFs could have a magnified effect on token price compared to bitcoin.

The new ether ETFs are not expected to attract the same amount of investor enthusiasm as the spot bitcoin ETFs, which have drawn nearly $38 billion in assets as of late June, according to Morningstar Direct.

Research from crypto asset manager Grayscale Investments, which is set to convert its existing ether trust into an ETF, estimated that the spot ether ETFs could see 25%-30% of the demand of the bitcoin funds.

But scaling down to market capitalization - given that ether's market cap is about one-third of bitcoin's - there could be a comparable price impact per dollar of inflows into the ether ETFs, said Zach Pandl, managing director of research at crypto asset manager Grayscale Investments.

"I do think it's similar to what we were looking at for bitcoin earlier this year where we think there'll be a substantial amount of new demand for the product and it will be interacting with a supply picture that is more constrained than I think is commonly understood," he said.

Unlike bitcoin, ether can be staked, or locked up for a certain amount of time, in exchange for yield. Just under 30% of the ether supply is staked, Pandl estimated, while another roughly 10% is locked in smart contracts. That reduces the supply of ether available for purchase for the new ETFs, which could drive up the price, he said.

"The reason bitcoin ETFs impacted price is because there was more demand for these ETFs than there was new supply of bitcoin," said Matt Hougan, chief investment officer at Bitwise. "In, the supply situation is even worse."

Predictions for the impact the ether ETF might have on the token's price vary widely, with global bank Standard Chartered estimating that ether could hit $8,000 by the end of the year. VanEck, which is set to launch a spot ether ETF, in May raised its price target for ether to $22,000 by 2030.

Yet the impact of the new ETFs could already be priced into ether, some market watchers warn. While it has remained off its all-time high, ether is still up more than 29% so far this year.

"For bitcoin and ethereum, they're more richly valued than they were at the launch of the bitcoin products earlier this year. That could argue for a slightly smaller effect," said Grayscale's Pandl.

(Reporting by Hannah Lang in New York; Editing by Pravin Char)