GameStop shares hovered around $105 in late-morning trading, off 3%, but are up nearly 200% for the week to date despite a broader market selloff that has erased nearly all the gains in the Nasdaq Composite Index for the month.
Analysts have struggled to find an easy 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 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 Feb. 26, 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.”
The 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 mixed, with cinema operator AMC Entertainment down around 1%, headphone maker Koss off about 16% and marijuana company Sundial Growers up about 2% in Friday trading.