The CBOE launched the first futures market for bitcoin this week. Bitcoin is a bit hard to wrap your mind around as a self-styled digital currency. What might help is looking at how they're created.
People lend out their computers to various projects that need computer power. Every so often, that work results in a bitcoin heading their way; a set amount of coins are issued each year.
A bitcoin is an encrypted computer file documenting who was initially issued the coin and the cybertrail that lead it to the current owner, worthless in and of itself. Likewise, the $20 bill in my wallet, with a nice picture of a stern-faced Andrew Jackson, has little intrinsic value either. However, it'll buy about eight gallons of gas or breakfast for two at Bob Evans. Thus, that piece of paper with the mug of a slave-holding late president has value to me.
I typically don't shop anyplace that takes bitcoin, so it's of little interest to me. However, there are some corners of the economy, quite a bit of it illicit, that does. It does seems to have value to a large number of folks, not all of which are criminals or paranoid libertarians.
A lower bound to what a bitcoin would be worth is the cost of making one. A number of companies, many of them in China, specialize in bitcoin mining, setting up hundreds of computers to crank away at bitcoin-generating problems. Like precious metal mines, if the cost of mining the product is more than the value of it, they stop production, so the presence of bitcoin mines indicates that there's money to be made in them thar cyberhills.
The presence of a futures market will allow miners to lock in a price for the bitcoin, allowing more mainstream investors confidence to enter the fray. If you can lock in a $1000 price and it cost you $500 to make it, you're turning a 100% profit in short order.
An increase in supply of computer power going after bitcoins will increase the cost per bitcoin, as it will take more computer time to get a bitcoin. At some point, the cost of getting a bitcoin will equal the price.
Assuming the futures market holds up and enough folks get into bitcoin mining as a result (two yuge ifs), an price will get established that has some real-world basis behind it. Some of that is likely happening without the futures markets, but it will give a degree of certitude to would-be miners.
To answer the question of the Bloomberg article, no, you shouldn't be trading bitcoin futures. That is, unless you have a need to hedge bitcoin exposure or are an expert on the bitcoin market (untrained futures speculation is a sucker's bet), which describes none of the known members of the Peanut Gallery, however much of it is left after a multi-month hiatus.