US exchange operator CME Group has outlined plans to launch bitcoin futures as the cryptocurrency continues to gain traction.
The Chicago-based firm said it was responding to growing interest in bitcoin from its clients.
CME plans to launch the bitcoin futures in the fourth quarter of this year, subject to regulatory approvals.
Having risen five-fold since the beginning of the year, the cryptocurrency has been garnering ever increasing investor attention, but also controversy.
CME´s move into bitcoin is likely to be viewed as a major endorsement at a time when the cryptocurrency has been on the receiving end of sharp criticism.
Jamie Dimon, chief executive of JPMorgan Chase, recently labelled bitcoin as a “fraud”.
Commenting on the decision to move into bitcoin, Terry Duffy, CME group chairman and chief executive, said: "As the world's largest regulated FX marketplace, CME Group is the natural home for this new vehicle that will provide investors with transparency, price discovery and risk transfer capabilities."
Bitcoin was trading at around $6,392 this afternoon, about 5% higher than yesterday.