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Jan 27, 2021

American Air surges most in two months after mention on Reddit

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American Airlines Group Inc., the most shorted major U.S. carrier, surged after a mention on Reddit’s Wall Street Bets forum.

“AAL the next GME?” said Reddit user u/cardiffgiantthe1st in an online discussion Wednesday, referring to the stock tickers of American and GameStop Corp., the video-game retailer that has quintupled in value this week alone.

American’s stock gain adds to a flurry of share increases this week as Reddit-fueled retail traders take on short sellers and drive up prices. With stock after stock, legions of day traders have identified companies with high levels of short interest and piled in. In the case of GameStop, the soaring price has forced many short sellers to give up their positions.

American jumped 9.3 per cent to US$16.98 at 2:11 p.m. in New York after advancing as much as 15 per cent for the biggest intraday gain since Nov. 9. Other companies on a Standard & Poor’s index of big U.S. airlines either fell or were little changed.

The Fort Worth, Texas-based carrier didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

The gain isn’t “justified by anything fundamental,” Darryl Genovesi, an analyst at Vertical Research Partners, said in an email. He expressed the same view about the gain of as much as 41 per cent during the session by another company he covers, Virgin Galactic Holdings Inc.

Short interest as a percentage of American’s free float is about 29 per cent, according to data from S3 Partners. No other major U.S. airline has short interest of more than 5 per cent.

American is scheduled to report fourth-quarter earnings on Thursday. Like its rivals, the airline has been contending with the unprecedented collapse of air travel because of the coronavirus pandemic.