Reddit vs. Goliath
Smaller investors outduel big funds in short selling fight
Across most of America, GameStop is just a place to buy a video game. On Wall Street, though, it’s become a battleground where swarms of smaller investors see themselves making an epic stand against the 1%.
The funds serving the financial elite are starting to walk away in defeat. Big bets they made that GameStop’s stock would fall went wrong, leaving them facing billions of dollars in collective losses. All the wild action pushed GameStop’s stock as high as $380 on Wednesday, up from $18 just a few weeks ago.
The stunning seizure of power gives some validation to smaller-pocketed investors, many of whom are encouraging each other on Reddit and are trading stocks for the first time thanks to brokerages offering free-trading apps.
Two investment firms that had placed bets for money-losing GameStop’s
stock to fall have essentially thrown in the towel. One, Citron Research, acknowledged Wednesday in a YouTube video that it unwound the majority of its bet and took “a loss, 100%” to do so. But Andrew Left, who runs Citron, said that does not change his view that GameStop’s stock will eventually go down.
“We move on,” Left said. “Nothing has changed with GameStop except the stock price.”
Melvin Capital is also exiting GameStop, with manager Gabe Plotkin telling CNBC that the hedge fund was taking a significant loss. He denied rumors that the hedge fund will fail. The size of the losses taken by Citron and Melvin are unknown.
Before its recent explosion, GameStop’s stock had been struggling for a long time. The company has been losing money for years as sales of video games increasingly go online, and its stock fell for six straight years before rebounding in 2020.
That pushed many professional investors to make bets that GameStop’s stock will decline even further. In such bets, called “short sales,” investors borrow a share and sell it in hopes of buying it back later at a lower price and pocketing the difference. GameStop is one of the most shorted stocks on Wall Street.
But its stock began rising sharply earlier this month after a co-founder of Chewy, the online seller of pet supplies, joined the company’s board. The thought is that he could help in the company’s transformation as it focuses more on digital sales and closes brickand-mortar stores. Its shares jumped to $19.94 from less than $18 on Jan. 11. At the time, it seemed like a huge move for the stock.
Smaller investors were meanwhile encouraging each other on Reddit and elsewhere online to push GameStop’s
stock ever higher. The raucous discussions are full of sarcasm, self deprecation and emojis of rocket ships signifying belief that GameStock’s stock will fly to the moon.
“WHAT IS AN ACTUAL RATIONAL SELLING POINT, (ABOVE 200? 500?) SO I DONT HAVE TO WATCH THIS TICKER EVERY SECOND UNTIL FRIDAY/MONDAY ???? ” one user wrote in a Reddit discussion Tuesday afternoon as GameStop soared.
There is no overriding reason why GameStop has attracted this cavalcade of smaller and first-time investors, but there is a distinct component of revenge against
Wall Street in communications online.
“The same rich people that caused the market crash in 2007/08 are still in power and continue to manipulate the market to get even richer, we are just taking back our fair share,” one user wrote on Reddit.
“hey mom i can’t come up for dinner,” another user wrote. “i’m bankrupting a 10 figure hedge fund with the boys.”
The Securities and Exchange Commission said Wednesday that it’s noticed all the volatility in the market, though it did not name GameStop specifically. The agency said it’s “working with our fellow regulators to assess the situation and review the activities” of investors in the market.