Idle hands certainly are the Devil’s workshop. If the mob of Reddit day traders who drove GameStop to stupid heights last week are any indication, so too are idle thumbs!
For the uninitiated, here’s the lowdown. Over the span of three short weeks, GameStop inexplicably vaulted from about $20 per share to nearly $500 per share. The stock’s move had nothing to do with GameStop’s actual business, of course. It was driven by individuals who gathered online and supposedly shared the common goal of inflicting pain on evil Wall Street types.
GameStop is a struggling retailer operating in the video game industry that’s increasingly going digital; a trend that’s only been accelerated by Covid. It comes as no surprise that many hedge funds decided to bet against them. In fact, GameStop ultimately became the most heavily shorted stock on Wall Street.
Now, when an investor wants to bet against a stock, they find some shares to temporarily borrow and then immediately sell them into the market. Their plan is to return the borrowed shares by repurchasing them after the stock drops. Short sellers aim to sell high and buy low. Over the past couple years, short sellers literally borrowed every possible share of GameStop.
This massive, one-way bet caught the attention of some contrarian investors. Some wagered that GameStop might be able to pull off a turnaround. A few entertaining ones even went on YouTube to explain their rationale.
If things improved for GameStop, they dreamed of a colossal “short squeeze.” That is, they imagined a rising stock price that would literally crush the short sellers. Further, if only Gamestop investors could hold on tightly enough to their shares, the short sellers would be forced to bid higher and higher for shares to exit their terrible trade.
As the story goes, inspired by the prospects of destroying Wall Streeters, millions of idle, stuck-at-home and new investors – armed with easy-come, easy-go stimulus checks and Robinhood’s trading app – gathered on a social media platform, Reddit, to coordinate the ultimate short squeeze.
To help keep the game going, these new investors have even devised mantras to inspire others to hold tight. They speak of having “diamond hands” with the ability to ride through the volatility of the trade. They even post brokerage account screenshots showing their sometimes massive losses and add pithy reminders to their fellow gamers that you-only-live-once. I imagine it looked so fun!
Lately, though, it appears the Devil has been lurking in the shadows as these gamblers tapped away on their phones. Ironically, their end-game depended on their ability to suppress the deadly sin they most despise in others; personal greed.
Over the past few days, the mob has decided to sell out and is searching in vain for a willing sucker to buy their bloated shares. Naturally, no matter how game-like it all appeared, all that free money started to add up to some real dough. The mob does still view it as real money, right? Are you listening, Fed and Congress?