Was GameStop really a case of the little guys beating Wall Street? Maybe not

The Reddit rebellion against Wall Street – a battle that appeared to pitch small investors against the financial titans – may not have been quite what it seemed, according to an analysis by JP Morgan.

David v Goliath narrative in GameStop story has serious flaws | Jeffrey Frankel

After shares of the ailing video games retailer GameStop hit record highs last month, small investors who had piled into the stock claimed victory over hedge funds that had bet the price would collapse.

But JP Morgan researchers found GameStop’s shares were not even in the top 10 of most traded stocks by small investors, and suggested institutional investors rather than an army of meme-toting Redditors may have been behind the dramatic rise in the share price.

“Although retail buying was portrayed as the main driver of the extreme price rally experienced by some stocks, the actual picture may be much more nuanced,” JP Morgan global quantitative and derivatives strategy analyst Peng Cheng told clients in a note.

The analysis of public data from exchanges found GameStop was No 15 on the firm’s retail buying list for January. Other companies that benefited from a Reddit bounce, including the cinema chain AMC, were popular buys for small investors. But GameStop’s absence will complicate the picture as US authorities investigate exactly what happened.

“Maybe it’s not as much of just the little guy versus the big guy,” JMP Securities analyst Devin Ryan told CNBC. “I think that it’s reasonable to say that institutional investors were also very active in those stocks last week because there are institutional investors that participate in names that have elevated volume. I think most likely that was also expressed in some of the options activity last week as well.”

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