GameStop, AMC dive further as meme stocks rally tapers off


FILE PHOTO: A screen displays the logo and trading information for GameStop on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York City, U.S., March 29, 2022. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo

(Reuters) -Retail investor darlings GameStop and AMC fell for a second straight session on Thursday, as the excitement over the social media return of "Roaring Kitty", who was the central figure in 2021 meme stock rally, fizzles out.

Shares of the videogame retailer GameStop fell 17% to $32.60 after jumping as much as $64.83 this week. Theater chain AMC shed 11% following an 88% surge since Friday's close.

Both the shares were to set to shed half of their gains made in the first two sessions of the week following a series of posts from Keith Gill's X account "Roaring Kitty", whose bullish calls on GameStop was a reason for the 2021 meme stocks frenzy.

Unlike 2021 when Reddit users banded together to target highly shorted stocks that burnt the bearish bets of hedge funds, institutional investors too are part of the meme stock mania, Vanda Research, which tracks retail investor flows, said.

"The short sellers three years ago were completely surprised by the magnitude of the mass purchases and ultimately overwhelmed by the size of the short squeeze," said Rick Meckler, partner at Cherry Lane Investments.

"They have likely learned from that experience and left themselves less exposed thereby reducing the potential for extended upward pressure."

Short interests, or bets on a stock's decline, have stayed rather flat for both GameStop and AMC this week, analytics firm Ortex Technologies said.

Short sellers took unrealized losses worth $1.14 billion this week from their bets against the two struggling companies and were set to make just about $460 million in paper gains on Thursday, it said.

Meanwhile, hedge fund Renaissance Technologies placed a new bet for GameStop shares to rise further and significantly increased its long position in AMC during the first quarter.

GameStop stock was still nearly 70% below its 2021 peak, while AMC, which hit a record low last month, was 98% off its all-time high.

Since his first post on Sunday, Gill has put out more than 50 movies clips on X.com. He did not respond to a Reuters request for comment on what the posts mean and whether he planned on making his investments public again.

Former U.S. SEC Chair Jay Clayton told CNBC on Wednesday the posts have triggered "a wave of euphoric and speculative buying in the retail (trading) community which is never a good thing", adding that it was not illegal to say "I like a stock".

Other highly shorted stocks that caught a bid this week were lower on Thursday. Tupperware fell 6%, while U.S.-listed BlackBerry and SunPower shed about 2% each.

OPTIONS TRADERS RUSH IN

Options activity remained strong. GameStop and AMC were among the top ten securities with highest options volume by 11:15 a.m. ET, with majority of traders buying call options, which bet on a stock's rise, data from Options Clearing Corp showed.

The pace of borrowing for margin trading by U.S. investors, however, has been restrained compared to the GameStop short squeeze in January 2021, J.P.Morgan strategists said in a note.

"Retail investors are once bitten twice shy after they ended up losing a lot of money last time round," said Ben Laidler, global markets strategist at digital brokerage eToro.

"Even though there are more retail investors today, you're not seeing that follow through into the rally this time as you saw last time."

(Reporting by Medha Singh and Pranav Kashyap in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur)

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