GameStop Corp shares soared again on Thursday after doubling in the previous session, triggering a series of NYSE trading halts and leading a surprise resurgence of so-called "stonks" championed by passionate retail investors on various online forums.
GameStop shares hit $160 at the open before being halted after several minutes of trading and fell to around $129 before the second halt. The stock resumed trading around 10 a.m. Eastern and hovered around $143 in afternoon trade, up almost 60%.
GameStop was up almost 70% at one point in a blistering rally that lifted other "stonks" or "meme stocks" popular on sites such as Reddit's WallStreetBets, even as the broad S&P 500 index fell more than 2%. AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc jumped 12.5% and headphone company Koss Corp rocketed nearly 61%.
Analysts were puzzled by the new rally. Some ruled out a short squeeze like the one in January that battered hedge funds that had bet against GameStop and were forced to cover short positions when individual investors using Robinhood and other trading apps pushed the video game retailer's shares as high as $483.
Still, short-sellers are estimated to have lost $818 million on Wednesday from bearish bets on GameStop, data from financial analytics firm Ortex showed.
"The power of the “three R’s” (Robinhood, Retail, Reddit) are back in play," said Neil Campling, head of technology research at Mirabaud Securities.
"Short interest, though still significant, is now starting out from a different base than last time when it was more than 100%," said Ankit Gheedia, Head of Equity and Derivative Strategy, Europe for BNP Paribas.
Some said the rally may be partly fueled by a fear of betting against GameStop.
“There are not a lot of people who are just sitting there, ‘oh yeah, let’s for fun, let’s just short GameStop and get my head ripped off.' The investors learn.,” said Dennis Dick, a trader at Bright Trading, on the Benzinga podcast.
Investors may be jumping on the GameStop bandwagon hoping to reap gains similar to turbo-charged advances of January and then sell the stock, said David Starr, vice president of quantitative analysis at Simpler Trading.
"All of these stocks are once again rising together. It demonstrates that there is nothing intrinsic in the companies themselves," he said.
Former GameStop shortseller Citron Research said on Thursday that the company should buy online gambling company Esports Entertainment Group Inc
“It would be an easy acquisition for GameStop to tuck in right now,” Citron's Andrew Left told Reuters in an interview. “Some people say it would be a ‘Hail Mary pass’ but I think it would be a major pivot,” he said.
Nearly 103 million shares of GameStop had changed hands by mid-morning, almost double its 30-day average volume of 62 million, but still well below the more than 190 million shares that traded hands daily in late January
On Wednesday, GameStop was the fourth most traded stock by Fidelity's customers, with buy orders outnumbering sell orders nearly 2-to-1, as per the broker's data.
The surge comes days after Reddit trader Keith Gill, who runs the YouTube channel Roaring Kitty, doubled down on GameStop and bought additional shares last week. Last week, Gill testified in the U.S. Congress: "I like the stock." His words have since been quoted by hundreds of his online followers and featured in memes on financial sites.
Reddit forums were buzzing again with bullish GameStop posts on Thursday.
"Bought lots more #GME today, let's keep fighting !!," wrote Reddit user Fundssqueezzer.
In January, GameStop shares skyrocketed by more than 1600% as retail investors, urged on by WallStreetBets, bought shares to punish hedge funds that had taken an outsized short bet against it.
Gabriel Plotkin's Melvin Capital hedge fund was left needing a $2.75 billion lifeline from Citadel LLC and Point72 Asset Management.
Investing legend Charlie Munger, longtime business partner of Warren Buffett, criticized the risky trading strategies employed by some traders on Reddit.
"It's really stupid to have a culture which encourages as much gambling in stocks by people who have the mindset of racetrack bettors," said Munger, Berkshire Hathaway's vice chairman.
Online brokerage Robinhood said in a tweet that the NYSE action would impact all brokerages, but that it had not paused trading on the shares.