HONG KONG - Hong Kong's largest bitcoin futures exchange-traded fund saw its assets under management swell five-fold in the past five months to just over $100 million, as local investors chased the rally in the world's best-known cryptocurrency.

Hong Kong has been a relative latecomer to crypto trading, approving its first three cryptocurrency futures ETFs in late 2022.

CSOP Asset Management, which manages the CSOP Bitcoin Futures ETF, said demand grew substantially in February.

The approval and launch of spot bitcoin ETFs in the U.S. this year has spurred demand from investors who believe the token's limited supply will push prices higher, said Alessandro Zhu, who oversees crypto products and is deputy head of fixed income at CSOP Asset Management.

Bitcoin's significant outperformance of Hong Kong stocks has also boosted demand, he added.

Zhu noted that although cryptocurrency trading is banned in mainland China, offshore Chinese financial institutions could invest in bitcoin ETFs in Hong Kong.

Bitcoin has gained 45% this month alone and, trading around $63,000 on Thursday, is closing in on its November 2021 record highs near $69,000.

Assets under management for CSOP Ether Futures ETF have also benefited, doubling this year.

Volumes have surged.

Average daily turnover for the CSOP Bitcoin Futures ETF this year has jumped to $2.8 million compared to $0.97 million last year, now at par with turnover in some Hong Kong property giants such as the Wharf (Holdings).

Some market participants expect Hong Kong to approve the first spot bitcoin ETF this year as officials are keen to develop the city as a hub for virtual assets.

"Hong Kong’s bitcoin ETF is showing promising signs with a large number of (spot bitcoin ETF) applications to Hong Kong Securities and Futures Commission in the past few months," said Kennix Chan, executive director of Victory Securities.

(Reporting by Summer Zhen; Editing by Vidya Ranganathan and Edwina Gibbs)