An early surge in the shares of GameStop Corp fizzled and left the video game retailer’s stock down more than 15% on Friday, throwing water on a renewed rally this week that has left analysts puzzled.
GameStop shares hovered around $94 after hitting $105 in late-morning trading. Despite Friday’s losses, the company’s stock is up about 135% for the week in the face of a broader market selloff that has sent the benchmark S&P 500 down about 2% over the same time.
Analysts have struggled to find an clear explanation for the rally, leaving some skeptical that it will continue.
“You might be able to make some quick trading money and it could be a lot of money, but in the end, it’s the greater fool theory,” said Eric Diton, president and managing director at The Wealth Alliance in New York. The theory refers to buying stocks that are over-valued in anticipation that someone else will come along to buy them at a higher price.
One catalyst that sparked GameStop’s rally in January – a high concentration of investors that had bet against the stock being forced to unwind their positions – does not appear to be as much of a factor this time.
Short interest accounted for 28.4% of the float on Thursday, compared with a peak of 142% in early January, according to S3 Partners.
Options market activity in the stock, which has returned to the top of the list in a social media-driven retail trading frenzy, suggested investors were betting on higher prices or higher volatility, or both.
Refinitiv data on options showed retail investors have been buying deep out-of-the-money call options, which are options with contract prices to buy far higher than the current stock price.
Many of those option contracts are set to expire on Friday, and would mean handsome gains for those betting on a further rise in GameStop’s stock price.
Call options, which would be profitable for holders if GameStop shares reach $200 and $800 this week, have been particularly heavily traded, the data showed.
“The actors are looking to take advantage of everything they can to maximize their impact and the timing is important,” said David Trainer, chief executive officer of investment research firm New Constructs. “The options expiration will contribute to their strategy on how to push the stock as much as they can and maximize their profits.”
Bots on major social media websites have been hyping GameStop and other “meme stocks,” although the extent to which they influenced market prices is unclear, according to analysis by Massachusetts-based cyber security company PiiQ Media.
GameStop’s stock is still far from the $483 intraday trading high it hit in January, when individual investors using Robinhood and other trading apps drove a rally, forcing many hedge funds that had bet against the video game retailer to cover short positions.
Other Reddit favorites were also lower, with cinema operator AMC Entertainment down around 5.5%, headphone maker Koss off about 25% and marijuana company Sundial Growers down less than 1% in Friday trading.