Reddit stock traders send GameStop, Blackberry on rocket ship ride
Trading in the stock market used to require a mastery of all sorts of Wall Street jargon. These days you also need to be fluent in emoji: If a post on a Reddit Wall Street message board contains icons of rocket ships pointing upward, you’d best pay attention.
Some of Reddit’s favorite rockets are soaring again Monday even though benchmark equity gauges are weaker. From mall-based retailers like GameStop Corp. and Express Inc. to telecom blasts from the past such as BlackBerry Ltd. and Nokia Oyj, the r/wallstreetbets forum is minting small fortunes for retail traders who get in and out of the favored names at the right time.
All told, more than 100 stocks of at least $50 million in market capitalization were in excess of 10% higher in morning trading. Not all are the type of heavily shorted stocks favored by the profane, meme-loving traders on Reddit. Yet many highlight the phenomenon that the trading decisions of crowds — regardless of how much collective conventional wisdom is involved — has become one of the most dominant forces in today’s market.
“It blurs the line between gambling and investing,” Greg Taylor, chief investment officer at Purpose Investments, said by phone. “When you’re divorcing fundamentals from where stocks are trading, you can do that as long as you’re on the right side of the trade. But when the trends change, you have to get off fast.”
Video-game retailer GameStop, already sitting on a tidy 245% year-to-date gain at the end of last week, doubled again Monday. So did clothing retailer Express Inc., which some on Reddit have speculated will be the next GameStop. BlackBerry is tacking on an additional 30% after more than doubling so far in 2021.
Other stocks doing well after getting the Reddit treatment include the movie-theater operator AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc., which rose as much as 39% on Monday. Animal-medicine company Zomedica Corp. is up 5.1% for the day and 336% so far in 2021. Kopin Corp., a semiconductor company, climbed 20% for the session and has more than doubled this year. Nokia’s U.S. shares are up 12% in morning trading.
Blank-check corporations known as special acquisition companies — a group with its own 79,000-member-strong message board on Reddit — are also posting eye-popping moves. TS Innovation Acquisitions Corp., a special acquisition company launched by real-estate firm Tishman Speyer Properties, rose as much as 90% after announcing a reverse merger with software-as-a-service provider Latch Inc.
For now, professional investors can only stand by and watch with a mix of awe and a tinge of disgust — and wonder when and if the market comes to its senses. With 2.1 million users on r/wallstreetbets — or “degenerates,” as they’re known on the message board -- when that happens is anyone’s guess.
David W. Wagner, portfolio manager at Aptus Capital Advisors, has been watching the breakneck rally in Reddit favorite GameStop in near disbelief, calling it his “most-hated stock of all time.”
“I would have bet my first-born male that GameStop would not be trading at the levels it’s trading at now,” he said.
Oftentimes the frenzy of trading from the retail hordes is focused on exploiting the tools and tactics of Wall Street pros. Sometimes that means piling into heavily shorted stocks like GameStop, knowing that it could cause a “squeeze” that will drive the shares higher as bearish investors are forced to buy the stock to close out their bets. It can also involve buying call options, knowing that bullish action in that market can lead dealers to buy the stock and push the share prices higher.
Both have played a role in Reddit’s embrace of GameStop, known by its ticker GME. Options continued to fuel the stock’s gains Friday, according to Bespoke Investment Group, with a combined 2.14 million contracts — representing a number of shares that is multiple times the size of the company’s float — trading hands Friday.
“From here, the ludicrous price action in GME is anyone’s guess,” Bespoke wrote in a note Monday. “Another double or a sharp decline would be equally unsurprising given how things have gone so far.”
For some investment industry pros, an adapt-or-perish type of mentality is setting in. All those hard-learned lessons about valuations and investing discipline may, in many cases, need to take a back seat to simply following the buzz on social media.
“A new army of traders are not focused on valuations, but rather by momentum opportunities they see from Reddit’s wallstreetbets, Youtubers, TikTok, or Robinhood,” said Ed Moya, senior market analyst at Oanda Corp. “Top research shops will now have to consider how millennial traders are positioning themselves.”
Here’s one hint from the Reddit user with the screen name Hagizzo, who concluded Monday morning in a post touting GameStop: “F— the shorts, f— fundamentals. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity.” Also: “And for the boomers and the S.E.C., this is not financial advise.”