(C) Reuters. FILE PHOTO: The GameStop store sign is seen at its shop in Westminster
By Sinead Carew
(Reuters) – Shares of GameStop (NYSE:GME) surged as much as 53% and other so-called meme stocks rallied, lifted by the latest news from the video game retailer and expectations that investors may soon plow a fresh wave of stimulus checks into the equity market.
GameStop shares last traded up 29.2% at $178.01, after earlier reaching $210.87, their highest level since Feb. 1, after the company tapped shareholder and Chewy (NYSE:CHWY) co-founder Ryan Cohen to spearhead a new committee to help its transition to an e-commerce business. The stock was up as much as 53% earlier in the session.
Other stocks favored by retail investors on forums such as Reddit’s WallStreetBets also rallied, with some market watchers attributing the moves to the Senate’s passage of a $1.9 trillion stimulus bill that could soon put $1,400 direct payments into the hands of Americans, including retail investors eager to buy stock.
“Maybe there’s a thought that if people are going to get a lot of money in their stimulus checks, that some of it’s going into the stock market,” said Christopher Murphy, co-head of derivatives strategy at Susquehanna Financial Group. “Some of it might go into those same names that we saw in late January, those message board Reddit-type stocks.”
Retail investors surveyed by Deutsche Bank (DE:DBKGn) last month said they would put more than a third of their stimulus checks into the stock market, which could represent inflows of around $170 billion, the bank said in a research note.
Retail buying of stocks and options has been one of several factors that have driven markets higher over the past year, analysts said. Fifty-three percent of the respondents in the Deutsche Bank survey said they invested some of the money from past stimulus checks in the stock market.
Other stocks that are often discussed on Reddit were also soaring on Monday with AMC Entertainment (NYSE:AMC) up 12.3%, headphone maker Koss Corp climbing 18.4% and Rocket Companies up 5.0%.
The U.S. government should be able to start delivering $1,400 checks almost immediately once Congress finalizes a new aid bill and President Joe Biden signs it, tax experts say.
GameStop’s latest rally comes on the heels of several wild swings in the company’s share price from January. Since then, GameStop has become one of the hottest and most visible of “meme stocks” that are closely followed on social media sites.
Cohen – a major GameStop shareholder who has been pushing the company to move away from its traditional brick-and-mortar model – joined the board in January shortly before a social media frenzy drove a meteoric rise in the company’s stock.
The stock surged more than 1,600% in January after a wave of buying forced large short-sellers betting against the company’s shares to unwind their positions, before paring most of those gains the following month.
Recently, Cohen posted a cryptic tweet of an ice-cream cone, that left analysts speculating on whether that was a trigger for GameStop’s most recent rally.
Cohen’s RC Ventures activist firm reached a settlement with GameStop in January, giving Cohen seats on the company’s board.
GameStop said its Strategic Planning and Capital committee will help drive the latest e-commerce push. Along with Cohen, the committee will include Alan Attal, a Chewy alumni who also joined the board as part of the RC Ventures settlement, and another board member Kurt Wolf.
GameStop’s sales through brick-and-mortar stores are under increasing pressure, as more customers gravitate toward digital downloads of console games, amid intensifying competition from videogame streaming services.
GameStop shares surge 53%, other ‘meme stocks’ rally on stimulus hopes