GameStop Is A Bubble In Its Purest Form - Kanebridge News
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GameStop Is A Bubble In Its Purest Form

It is tempting to see GameStop’s soaring stock as merely the result of clownish behaviour in a chat room. That would be a mistake.

By James Mackintosh
Thu, Jan 28, 2021 2:15amGrey Clock 4 min

GameStop is the platonic ideal of a stock bubble.

A combination of easy money, a real improvement in the company’s prospects, technical support from a short squeeze and a mad rush to get rich or die trying pushed stock in the retailer up 64-fold from late August to Wednesday’s close. Anyone who has held on for 10 days made gains of more than 10 times their money.

It is tempting to see GameStop as merely clownish behaviour in a chat room having some amusing effects on a stock few care about. That would be a mistake.

Sure, the wildly popular Reddit group Wall Street Bets—slogan: like 4chan found a Bloomberg terminal—is full of childish chat. Several users report that they have bet their parents’ pension fund on GameStop or that the boss’s daughter has bought in. There are plenty of calls for the stock to go to $1000 or more (it started the year at $18.84).

But GameStop’s soaring stock—and similar moves in BlackBerry, Nokia and others—is a bubble in microcosm, with lessons for those of us worrying about froth elsewhere in the market.

GameStop’s rise started with some genuine good news, just as bubbles always do. Ryan Cohen, who built up and sold online pet-food retailer Chewy, started building what is now a 13% stake for his RC Ventures in GameStop last year. He pushed for the staid mall-based seller of videogames to improve its internet sales. This month he joined the board.

Mr Cohen’s arrival means GameStop at least has a chance of joining the 21st century. From the first disclosure of his stock purchases in August up to the end of November the shares tripled, helped too by the improved prospects for the vaccine-driven reopening of the economy.

Along the way, some private investors latched on to the stock, helping its rise, and it became an item of discussion on Wall Street Bets, or r/WSB as it’s known.

This month the stock moved into the pure speculative phase, producing several daily jumps of 50% or more, and fundamentals were abandoned. Many cheerleaders on r/WSB stopped even making the pretense of arguments about Mr Cohen’s chances of turning the company around. Instead, there were two justifications for buying: wanting to get in on the price action to avoid being labelled, in the abusive parlance of the forum, a “retard” who missed gigantic profits, and the self-fulfilling prospect of hurting the large numbers of short-sellers.

As the late economist Charles Kindleberger put it: “There is nothing as disturbing to one’s well-being and judgment as to see a friend get rich. Unless it is to see a non-friend get rich.”

The scale of trading in GameStop shares is as extraordinary as the daily gains in price, suggesting widespread disturbance to people’s judgment. On Tuesday, $22 billion of shares changed hands, more than in Apple, the world’s largest company, and double GameStop’s market value. Adam Smith, the founder of economics, called speculative manias “overtrading,” and this is what they look like.

The hope of getting rich is only part of what’s inflating the bubble. Kindleberger argued that speculative manias needed innovative sources of financing, and the private traders on r/WSB have one: the shift last year to make trading in options free on Robinhood and several other platforms.

Options, like other derivatives, allow traders to use implied leverage to boost their bets, similar to borrowing money. In the same way that Japan’s bubble in the 1980s was fueled by cheap mortgages, and low Federal Reserve rates combined with collateralised debt obligations to support the housing bubble of the 2000s, the bubble in GameStop is aided by an increase in the money supply of private stock traders. Stimulus checks from the government can’t hurt, either.

Bubbles also frequently have support from technical factors that prevent the asset from being priced correctly. In the late 1990s, many dot-coms had a small float available, and none for short-sellers, making it hard or impossible for those who doubted the story to have their views expressed in the share price.

In GameStop, there are plenty of short-sellers, but they are making things even worse. The stock is caught in a vicious short squeeze. Short sellers had borrowed and sold more than 100% of the stock outstanding, as some was borrowed again. As the price rose, at least some of the hedge funds bought back shares to prevent further losses, so pushing the price up even further.

The most obvious parallel here is to K-Tel, the TV retailer of compilation tapes and the Veg-o-matic food processor, among other things. It announced in 1998 that it was moving online, prompting a jump in the shares that turned into an extraordinary short squeeze. K-Tel’s appropriately named public relations representative, Coffin Communications, gave this wonderful justification to the Washington Post: “Which do you think has more likelihood of success, a pure start-up that has never sold a product, or one like K-Tel that has been in business for 35 years?”

It turned out the answer was a pure startup, and K-Tel’s shares collapsed—but not before they had soared from $3.34 to more than $35 in under a month.

The difference with GameStop is that the r/WSB mob is actively engineering a short squeeze, discussing the pain they hoped to inflict on the short sellers and encouraging buyers not to cash in their profits.

Because there are so many shares that need to be repurchased by short-sellers, this offers an exit route for those who sell. But not everyone can do this, and those who are left holding the stock when demand eventually evaporates will watch the price plummet as it reverts back to something closer to what is justified by the company’s profit potential, just as K-Tel did.

Warren Buffett attributed to his mentor, Ben Graham, the line that “in the short run, the market is a voting machine—reflecting a voter-registration test that requires only money, not intelligence or emotional stability—but in the long run, the market is a weighing machine.”

The absence of emotional stability on r/WSB is obvious and has worked out beautifully for buyers of GameStop so far. But when the stock is weighed, many will be found wanting, as they always are in bubbles.



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These stocks are getting hit for a reason. Instead, focus on stocks that show ‘relative strength.’ Here’s how.

By KEN SHREVE
Wed, Jun 12, 2024 4 min

A lot of investors get stock-picking wrong before they even get started: Instead of targeting the top-performing stocks in the market, they focus on the laggards—widely known companies that look as if they are on sale after a period of stock-price weakness.

But these weak performers usually are going down for good reasons, such as for deteriorating sales and earnings, market-share losses or mutual-fund managers who are unwinding positions.

Decades of Investor’s Business Daily research shows these aren’t the stocks that tend to become stock-market leaders. The stocks that reward investors with handsome gains for months or years are more often  already  the strongest price performers, usually because of outstanding earnings and sales growth and increasing fund ownership.

Of course, many investors already chase performance and pour money into winning stocks. So how can a discerning investor find the winning stocks that have more room to run?

Enter “relative strength”—the notion that strength begets more strength. Relative strength measures stocks’ recent performance relative to the overall market. Investing in stocks with high relative strength means going with the winners, rather than picking stocks in hopes of a rebound. Why bet on a last-place team when you can wager on the leader?

One of the easiest ways to identify the strongest price performers is with IBD’s Relative Strength Rating. Ranked on a scale of 1-99, a stock with an RS rating of 99 has outperformed 99% of all stocks based on 12-month price performance.

How to use the metric

To capitalise on relative strength, an investor’s search should be focused on stocks with RS ratings of at least 80.

But beware: While the goal is to buy stocks that are performing better than the overall market, stocks with the highest RS ratings aren’t  always  the best to buy. No doubt, some stocks extend rallies for years. But others will be too far into their price run-up and ready to start a longer-term price decline.

Thus, there is a limit to chasing performance. To avoid this pitfall, investors should focus on stocks that have strong relative strength but have seen a moderate price decline and are just coming out of weeks or months of trading within a limited range. This range will vary by stock, but IBD research shows that most good trading patterns can show declines of up to one-third.

Here, a relative strength line on a chart may be helpful for confirming an RS rating’s buy signal. Offered on some stock-charting tools, including IBD’s, the line is a way to visualise relative strength by comparing a stock’s price performance relative to the movement of the S&P 500 or other benchmark.

When the line is sloping upward, it means the stock is outperforming the benchmark. When it is sloping downward, the stock is lagging behind the benchmark. One reason the RS line is helpful is that the line can rise even when a stock price is falling, meaning its value is falling at a slower pace than the benchmark.

A case study

The value of relative strength could be seen in Google parent Alphabet in January 2020, when its RS rating was 89 before it started a 10-month run when the stock rose 64%. Meta Platforms ’ RS rating was 96 before the Facebook parent hit new highs in March 2023 and ran up 65% in four months. Abercrombie & Fitch , one of 2023’s best-performing stocks, had a 94 rating before it soared 342% in nine months starting in June 2023.

Those stocks weren’t flukes. In a study of the biggest stock-market winners from the early 1950s through 2008, the average RS rating of the best performers before they began their major price runs was 87.

To see relative strength in action, consider Nvidia . The chip stock was an established leader, having shot up 365% from its October 2022 low to its high of $504.48 in late August 2023.

But then it spent the next four months rangebound—giving up some ground, then gaining some back. Through this period, shares held between $392.30 and the August peak, declining no more than 22% from top to bottom.

On Jan. 8, Nvidia broke out of its trading range to new highs. The previous session, Nvidia’s RS rating was 97. And that week, the stock’s relative strength line hit new highs. The catalyst: Investors cheered the company’s update on its latest advancements in artificial intelligence.

Nvidia then rose 16% on Feb. 22 after the company said earnings for the January-ended quarter soared 486% year over year to $5.16 a share. Revenue more than tripled to $22.1 billion. It also significantly raised its earnings and revenue guidance for the quarter that was to end in April. In all, Nvidia climbed 89% from Jan. 5 to its March 7 close.

And the stock has continued to run up, surging past $1,000 a share in late May after the company exceeded that guidance for the April-ended quarter and delivered record revenue of $26 billion and record net profit of $14.88 billion.

Ken Shreve  is a senior markets writer at Investor’s Business Daily. Follow him on X  @IBD_KShreve  for more stock-market analysis and insights, or contact him at  ken.shreve@investors.com .