GameStop share surge sparks concerns; global stock markets slide again – business live

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The extraordinary surge in the share price of the ailing US video games retail GameStop and other companies has drawn the attention of the White House and the US regulator, the Securities and Exchange Commission, which both said they were “monitoring” the situation.

There has been a surge of bets by small investors, who are discussing their investments in online forums such as Reddit. GameStop’s shares have soared this year, from $3.25 in April, to $347.51 last night. The three largest shareholders in GameStop have made more than $2bn from the company’s astronomic recent share rise.

It has turned into a David-and-Goliath style battle between small investors and Wall Street firms. Yesterday, a US hedge fund that had invested heavily betting on the failure of the struggling video game store – a practice called ‘shorting’ – pulled out. Melvin Capital Management, one of a number of Wall Street firms that stood to make money for investors if GameStop’s shares plummet, told CNBC it had closed out its short position after taking a huge loss.

Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets UK, says:

While few people are shedding many tears about large scale hedge fund losses, after all if you play with fire, be prepared to get burned, the market turmoil is highlighting a number of areas within the market, that might prompt regulatory scrutiny in the future, namely the monitoring of retail trade chat forums and message boards, and how they drive markets.

With large numbers of small investors swarming over heavily shorted stocks in what looked like a coordinated move, the frenzy raises all sorts of questions with respect to possible market manipulation.

It is already illegal for institutions to coordinate in the manner currently being seen in moving prices on these stocks, raising questions about the legality of what is currently taking place right now on these forums. Regulators have already said that they are monitoring what is going on, raising the possibility of further action if it causes further market instability.

Global stock markets took a bit of a battering yesterday, with the Dow Jones posting its biggest one day fall since October, and European markets are set to open lower this morning. Asian shares were also in the red, with Japan’s Nikkei closing 1.53% lower and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng losing 2.36% and the Australian market shedding 2.02%.

The US Federal Reserve issued a slightly more downbeat assessment when it left its policy stance unchanged last night, with interest rates near zero, and monthly bond purchases of $120bn.

The Fed acknowledged in its post-meeting statement that the economic recovery weakened in the final two months of last year, but balanced that near-term pessimism with greater optimism that vaccines had reduced the medium-term risks to the outlook.

Paul Ashworth, chief North America economist at Capital Economics, said:

We don’t expect the Fed to begin tapering its asset purchases until early next year and think the first interest rate hike could be delayed until 2024.

Economists at ING said:

If the vaccination program gains momentum and consumer spending rebounds sharply on re-opening, QE tapering will increasingly become a theme for markets.

In the press conference [Fed chair Jerome] Powell again argued that the economy is a long way from being healed and by implication that withdrawing the stimulus too early outweighs the risks from withdrawing it later.

Apple and Facebook announced better-than-expected results after the market close while Tesla’s figures were mixed. Apple had its most profitable quarter ever.

Tesla sold 35% more electric cars in 2020 and revenues rose 37%, faster-than-expected, but earnings missed forecasts due to an increase in cheaper model sales and the massive $267m pay award to its founder and chief executive Elon Musk. Tesla shares fell 5% in the after-market.

In the UK, car production slumped to its lowest level since 1984 last year as the coronavirus pandemic wreaked havoc on the industry, and Nissan overtook Jaguar Land Rover as the biggest carmaker in Britain.

The Agenda

  • 9am GMT: Italy Business and consumer confidence for January
  • 10am GMT: Eurozone Consumer confidence final for January (forecast: -15.5)
  • 1pm GMT: Germany inflation for January (forecast: 0.7%)
  • 1.30pm GMT: US GDP advance for fourth quarter (forecast: 4%), trade for December, weekly jobless claims
  • 3pm GMT: US New Home sales for December


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