By: CATHERINE THORBECKE, ABC News
(NEW YORK) — Retail investors continue to upend financial markets this week, sending silver prices higher and adding more volatility to Reddit-backed stocks such as GameStop and AMC Theaters.
Silver futures were up more than 9% by midday Monday, and many news outlets linked the sharp uptick to the Reddit page r/wallstreetbets that has been shaking up Wall Street over the past week.
Some of the top posts on the Reddit forum, however, said that this was false and urged members of the community not to buy silver but to focus on stocks such as GameStock and AMC. Moderators for the forum declined ABC News’ request for comment on whether they were pushing silver trading, saying their job is to make sure the page runs seamlessly and users are in control of upvoting or downvoting the posts highlighting specific stocks.
While many Reddit users distanced themselves from the silver surge, it still gained steam online and the hashtag #silversqueeze was trending on Twitter Monday morning.
“I think that it will be a lot tougher to see what we saw in GameStop sort of replicated in silver, because in that case you’ve got commodities that you can actually go out and take physical possession of and you’ve got several ETFs — there’s not just one exchange-traded fund that focuses on silver — so the ability to go after it with a short squeeze I think would be really challenging,” Josh White, an assistant professor of finance at Vanderbilt University and a former economist for the Securities and Exchange Commission, told ABC News.
“Now, it doesn’t mean that investor demand or exuberance going towards silver would be totally not fruitful,” he added. “If you went after any kind of commodity and there’s a lot of demand for it, the price will go up.”
Meanwhile, shares for the Reddit-hyped GameStock took a tumble Monday, shedding some 20% by midday. Shares for AMC Theaters, another favorite of r/wallstreetbets, climbed nearly 6%.
The army of retail investors loosely organized on Reddit shook up Wall Street last week, drawing backlash from lawmakers from both sides of the aisle and even the SEC.
White said the saga that seemingly pits everyday investors against major Wall Street firms “reflects a lot of our society,” but lamented that it may not end well for many average investors.
“I mean it’s definitely going to come down eventually,” White said of GameStop’s stock. “GameStop’s business, I wouldn’t say it’s a totally failing business model, but I’m not a very optimistic about their business model.”
He noted that in-person retail has taken a major hit recently and many games are now even sold electronically versus via hard copies in stores.
“I think everyone agrees the company’s not worth what the current valuation is, so the price will eventually come down,” he added.
The struggling retailer became a multi-billion dollar company in just a few weeks. GameStop was trading at less than $18 a share earlier this month, but spiked by more than 1,200% in the Reddit-fueled rally. “On Monday, shares were trading around $240.
White said he investigated market manipulation within penny stocks when he was at the SEC. While he noted this may not be manipulation in the traditional sense, he found that “vulnerable investors are actually the ones that do the worst” in these sort of volatile trading incidents.
“People who are more vulnerable for investing — so sort of everyday investors or people that don’t either fully comprehend the risk or don’t pay enough attention — they just see the stock price going up and maybe think this is an opportunity to get rich quick,” White said.
White worried GameStop’s eventual stock slump could have ramifications on the overall stock market and people’s willingness to invest in it.
Moreover, White said he’s skeptical the SEC will categorize the Reddit army’s actions as market manipulation.
“In this case, it’s not clear that an internet chat room or a forum that says, ‘Hey, we should all go buy this stock,’ is manipulation,” he said.
In many ways “there’s really no difference” between what this Reddit army did and what hedge funds or institutional investors do when they see a stock that is mispriced in some way, according to White.
Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.