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Mar 10, 2021

GameStop relives extreme volatility in roller-coaster day

Protecting retail investors should be top of the regulatory action list this year: Columbia Law professor

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GameStop Corp. ended the session higher after a roller-coaster session that echoed the wild swings in January when the company first rattled markets.

Shares closed up 7.3 per cent to US$265 in New York, extending gains for a sixth day, its longest winning streak since September. But it was not a smooth ride for the video-game retailer. At one point, shares whiplashed violently, with the stock bouncing between US$348 and US$172 in about 22 minutes, triggering multiple volatility halts. Volume also exploded, with over 70 million shares changing hands, almost double what’s been seen in the past week.

JJ Kinahan, chief market strategist at TD Ameritrade, compared the recent action on GameStop and investors’ willingness to pile into the the shares to firefighters running into danger.

“I think you’re running into a burning building -- that’s truly the easiest way to say it,” he said. “You can be a hero but you can also be the guy who they’re holding a funeral for,” he added.

Reddit users took to the platform to express their frustration and confusion over GameStop’s volatility. While some blamed hedge funds for the quick reversal, others encouraged investors to “HODL” (Hold On For Dear Life).

Keith Gill, the trader known as “Roaring Kitty,” weighed in on Twitter with a post from the British comedy series “Fleabag.” The tweet served as a rally cry for some Twitter and Reddit users who saw it as a signal to buy the dip.

GameStop has been on tear for the past six days as Chewy Inc. founder and activist investor Ryan Cohen continued to shake up operations at the video-game retailer. The Grapevine, Texas-based company said Monday Cohen would lead a new board committee focused on its digital transformation.

Some analysts however, warned the recent rally was not justified.

“Given the massive volatility in this stock, the risk is huge as the rally in the GME stock price is boosted by expectations of future growth, and is not based on concrete results for now,” Ipek Ozkardeskaya, senior analyst at Swissquote, said by email.

That’s similar to recent pushback from Wedbush analyst Michael Pachter who said that the appointment of Cohen to help lead GameStop’s transition was telegraphed ever since he gained board seats.

Earlier on Wednesday, short-seller Muddy Waters tweeted out a clarification that earlier comments made by Carson Block about the video-game retailer on CNBC were sarcastic. Block had said GameStop is a better company now than it was in December, which the tweet said was “purely sarcastic.”

Volatility returned despite short interest being at the lowest level in more than a year. Roughly one-fifth of shares available for trading are currently sold short, according to data compiled by S3 Partners. That compares to a peak of more than 140 per cent in January.

“I am not convinced the shorts are participating the way they did before,” Wedbush’s Pachter said in an email. “I suspect more are creating synthetic shorts with options, which makes them harder to squeeze (buying puts, for example).”