GameStop and Stock Market Live Updates

GameStop and Stock Market Live Updates

GameStop and Stock Market Live Updates

Credit…Gabriela Bhaskar for The New York Times

GameStop shares surged on Friday, the latest turn in a week of wild price swings in companies that have been bid up in a frenzy of activity by small investors.

This week, shares in GameStop — a stock Wall Street had given up on — have reached as high as $483 and fallen as low as $61.

GameStop had ended the regular trading session down 44 percent on Thursday. The drop earlier in the day had come as Robinhood and other trading platforms said they would limit the ability to buy certain securities, including AMC Entertainment and BlackBerry.

Then the trading app reversed some of the restrictions. The shares rose about 65 percent on Friday.

“We plan to allow limited buys of these securities” starting Friday, Robinhood said in blog post on Thursday afternoon. “We’ll continue to monitor the situation and may make adjustments as needed.”

Robinhood called its move “a risk-management decision,” and later said it had raised $1 billion to cover the costs of the high volume of transactions so it wouldn’t need to reimpose restrictions.

Other brokerage firms have also limited trading of some of the same stocks. The Securities and Exchange Commission said Wednesday it was “actively monitoring” the volatile trading.

Other stocks spurred on by day traders in Reddit forums like “Wall Street Bets” include AMC Entertainment, the movie-theater chain that has narrowly avoided bankruptcy four times in the past nine months, which rose 53 percent in early trading Friday after dropping 57 percent on Thursday.

Stocks on Wall Street dropped on Friday, following European and Asian indexes lower, with the S&P 500 on track for its worst weekly decline since late October.

The S&P 500 fell more than 1 percent, adding to its weekly loss of about 1.4 percent through Thursday.

Johnson & Johnson said on Friday that its one-dose coronavirus vaccine provided strong protection against Covid-19 — but it appeared to be less effective against new variants of the coronavirus. Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine is also less effective than those produced by Moderna and Pfizer, and its shares fell in early trading while shares of the other two companies rose.

Investors also had more economic data to consider. In the United States, personal income ticked back up in December while consumer spending continued to fall, the Commerce Department reported. Income increased 0.6 percent after two straight monthly declines. Spending was down 0.2 percent, the second drop in a row.

Data from Europe, meanwhile, showed that the German and French economies performed better at the end of last year than analysts expected. Germany, Europe’s largest economy, even managed to grow slightly. But a struggle to increase the region’s supply of vaccinations has damped optimism about this year’s economic recovery. Spain on Wednesday became the first E.U. country to partly suspend immunizations for lack of doses.

Wall Street’s attention this week has been consumed by an army of day traders that have been whipping around a handful of stocks, forcing losses on hedge funds and earning the attention of regulators and senators.

On that front, shares in GameStop and AMC Entertainment surged in early trading on Friday after the retail trading app Robinhood said that it would lift some of the restrictions to allow new buy transactions. Both stocks had plummeted on Thursday after the trading restrictions were imposed.

The meme-inspired surge in trading has picked up in cryptocurrencies, where wild price swings aren’t uncommon. Dogecoin, a cryptocurrency that started as a joke, has surged 800 percent in the past day. Elon Musk, the billionaire founder of Tesla, spurred some of the interest on Thursday by tweeting another meme, a fake magazine cover showing a picture of a dog. The billionaire also made his Twitter bio simply “#bitcoin,” and the cryptocurrency has jumped 15 percent.

Increased trading has forced Robinhood to seek additional funding.
Credit…Amy Lombard for The New York Timesø

Robinhood raised $1 billion from investors on Thursday to help it cover cash demands during the week’s stock trading frenzy. But the online brokerage, the venue of choice for small investors during the mania for shares in GameStop, AMC Entertainment and others, must still confront feelings of betrayal from its loyal customers and questions about its business model, the DealBook newsletter writes.

In imposing trading limits on hugely popular stocks yesterday because of financial requirements from a central Wall Street trading hub, Robinhood alienated some of its core customers. (Small groups of them gathered to protest outside the New York Stock Exchange and Robinhood’s headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif.) That sense of abandonment — that the brokerage had chosen to protect Wall Street institutions at risk of losing money over small investors making it — may be harder to address than annoyance over technical outages, like those that bedeviled the platform last year.

Meanwhile, Robinhood’s business model of no-fee trading is under renewed pressure. The company turned to existing investors and bank credit lines for cash because it cannot raise money by charging customers more. It benefits from more trading — but more trading also means it needs more capital to hold against its users’ trades, especially when volatility makes its partners in settling trades more risk averse. Becoming a publicly listed company, able to more easily sell stock and raise debt, would help, but future trading frenzies could lead to more demands for cash.

Washington also sees cause for concern. The Securities and Exchange Commission said on Friday that it would review action that “may disadvantage investors or otherwise unduly inhibit their ability to trade certain securities.”

Lawmakers in the House and Senate have pledged to hold hearings into the inner plumbing of Wall Street trading, and could perhaps require brokerages to post higher margin requirements to prevent similar runs. That could make trading costlier for users, turning some off to the whole business.

Chevron reported its third straight quarterly loss on Friday, as oil and natural gas prices remained low because the pandemic has disrupted activity across the economy. It was the company’s worst performance in four years.

The oil industry has suffered mightily over the last year, forcing companies to slash jobs, write off assets and, in the case of dozens of mostly smaller firms, file for bankruptcy.

With its varied international operations, Chevron comes out of the year stronger than most of its competitors, but the California-based company still lost $665 million in the last three months of 2020. The company lost $5.5 billion for the full year, down from a $2.9 billion profit in 2019.

“2020 was a year like no other,” said Chevron’s chief executive Mike Wirth in a statement. “We were well positioned when the pandemic and economic crisis hit, and we exited the year with a strong balance sheet.”

With oil and gas prices rising at the end of the year, Chevron’s oil and gas production yielded a $501 million profit in the fourth quarter, but its refining and chemical businesses continued to suffer as the global economy remained sluggish.

A spraypainted sign near the New York Stock Exchange. GameStop’s stock surge has been carried by a populist message.
Credit…Gabriela Bhaskar for The New York Times

GameStop started the week as a curiosity — an illustration of how markets may have become detached from reality and how small traders can use options to drive stock prices.

By Tuesday, the story of the stock had become an obsession, as it nearly doubled in price. Groups of renegade investors on forums such as Reddit and Discord were trying to force a short squeeze — pushing up the price of stocks that hedge funds had bet would go down.

On Wednesday, GameStop was the most actively traded stock, with $24 billion worth of shares switching hands as prices rose 135 percent. Brokerages started to worry about their exposure, with some limiting customers from purchasing shares on margin — with borrowed funds. Elon Musk and Chamath Palihapitiya jumped into the fray, urging the crowd on via Twitter. The Securities and Exchange Commission said it was “actively monitoring the ongoing market volatility.”

The surge of GameStop and other stocks — AMC Entertainment and American Airlines were two other favorite targets — was starting to take a toll on hedge funds. Melvin Capital had to raise a $2.75 billion bailout from Citadel and Point72 early in the week, and its founder, Gabriel Plotkin, confirmed to CNBC that he was throwing in the towel and had exited his position.

Point72’s returns were down nearly 15 percent for the year as of Wednesday, and returns at Citadel were down by single digits.

The stock had its first daily drop of the week on Thursday, as the apps that many traders relied on limited action. Robinhood, among others, temporarily prevented its users from buying new positions in GameStop and other companies. The announcement infuriated users, who felt that the platform had betrayed them to satisfy big investors. “They call themselves Robinhood, but they’re helping the wealthy take money back from the middle class,” said a protester outside Robinhood’s headquarters.

Robinhood said it would reallow some trades on Friday, potentially setting up another day of wild swings. It said it had placed the limits because of “financial requirements” and was raising an infusion of $1 billion to ensure it wouldn’t need to further limit transactions.

Analysts expect GameStop to report a loss from continuing operations of $465 million for 2020, on top of the $795 million it lost in 2019.

Janet L. Yellen was sworn in as the secretary of the Treasury by Vice President Kamala Harris at the White House on Tuesday.
Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

President Biden will receive his first formal economic briefing from Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen on Friday as the White House pushes to get relief legislation moving through Congress.

The meeting will take place in the Oval Office and Vice President Kamala Harris will also be in attendance. Ms. Yellen was sworn in on Tuesday and has spent her initial days in the job getting briefed by advisers on the status of the existing stimulus programs and speaking to foreign finance ministers about America’s plans to engage with its allies. She has also been monitoring the unusual stock market activity related to GameStop this week.

The meeting comes as the economic recovery shows signs of slowing, fueling concerns among White House officials that time is running short to pass a robust package before some emergency benefits expire in March. Democrats in Congress are still debating whether to push legislation forward on their own, using a mechanism called reconciliation, or work with Republicans on a bipartisan bill.

Ms. Yellen has foreshadowed the advice that she will be offering Mr. Biden during her confirmation hearing last week. She called on lawmakers to “act big” and said that providing robust support was the fiscally responsible thing to do to avoid long term damage to the economy.

Ms. Yellen’s team at Treasury is still taking shape and people close to her suggest that she will most likely assume the role of offering the White House high-level economic advice and helping to close the deal with lawmakers in Congress, rather than directly engaging in negotiations. The Treasury Department will also be heavily involved in the design and implementation of the relief programs.

Speaking at the White House on Thursday, Mr. Biden indicated that passing relief legislation was his top priority.

“We got a lot to do,” Mr. Biden said. “And the first thing I got to do is get this Covid package passed.”

A market in Paris this month. The French economy shrank 8.3 percent overall in 2020, but performed better than expected in the October-December quarter.
Credit…Ludovic Marin/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Severe recessions in Germany and France last year, caused by the coronavirus pandemic, began to improve slightly toward the end of 2020, as a second series of lockdowns had a milder impact on their economies, those governments reported on Friday.

But prospects for a hoped-for recovery this year in Europe’s two largest economies may be delayed as a new variant of the virus circulates and as problems emerge in the rollout of vaccines, economists warned.

The French economy shrank by 8.3 percent last year as two sets of national lockdowns, lasting months, dealt strong blows to business activity, the national statistics agency reported on Friday.

But the overall contraction was less than expected. By reducing the strictness of the nation’s second lockdown, which went into effect in October and was mainly limited to restaurants and cultural events, the government avoided a worse economic hit, the statistics agency said. Growth in the fourth quarter fell 1.3 percent, compared with the same period a year ago — far less than the 4 percent contraction forecast by many economists.

In a note to clients, the Dutch bank ING wrote, “The big question now is whether France will manage to avoid a second recession in 15 months.”

“Given the current health situation, another recession looks all but certain,” the bank added.

The economy in Germany grew 0.1 percent in the fourth quarter compared with the third quarter, the country’s Federal Statistical Office said. That compared to growth of 8.5 percent in the third quarter, as the economy bounced back from a severe downturn early in the year, when the pandemic brought German factories to a standstill.

Over all, the German economy shrank 5 percent for all of 2020, the statistical office said.

In a separate note to clients, ING said, “It’s the worst performance since the financial crisis in 2009 but still much better than some had feared at the start of the Covid-19 crisis.”

Economists predict that the German economy will shrink again in the first quarter of 2021 (not the first quarter of 2020 as was earlier reported here) because of the slow rollout of vaccines and extended lockdowns.

Local businesses have been eviscerated by the pandemic.
Credit…Adria Malcolm for The New York Times

The economic upheaval caused by the pandemic is changing communities across the country. Hundreds of thousands of businesses have closed, leading to lost livelihoods and empty storefronts. Many of these businesses were neighborhood pillars, beloved locales that we returned to over and over again. In your neighborhood, perhaps the bar where you met friends after work, the restaurant where your family celebrated birthdays or the bookstore where you loved to browse is now gone.

The New York Times would like to hear from you about a local business that has shut down. Why was it special to you, and what do you miss about it? How is its absence altering the fabric of your community?

We may contact you with a few follow-up questions. And if you can, please share a photo of the business as well.

Robinhood curbed trading in cryptocurrencies on Friday, its latest restriction on users in a frenzied week of trading centered on the soaring stock of the video game retailer GameStop.

The trading platform said that instant deposits were temporarily unavailable for crypto purchases, which means users cannot buy anything until their deposit settles. But customers can still use any settled funds in their account to buy cryptocurrencies.

“Due to extraordinary market conditions, we’ve temporarily turned off instant buying power for crypto,” Robinhood said in a statement. “We’ll keep monitoring market conditions and communicating with our customers.”

A spokeswoman for the firm said it typically aims to give customers immediate access to up to $1,000 of their deposit. The new rules do not affect its Gold customers.

Robinhood and several other online brokerages put restrictions on trading of stocks like GameStop and the movie theater chain AMC, which soared this week in a rally sparked by amateur investors. But the platform said that it was beginning to relax some of those limitations.

Robinhood is now allowing its users to buy shares in some of the affected stocks, but within certain limits: Users can buy just five shares of GameStop, according to its website, and up to 115 shares of AMC. Positions in options contracts are also limited.

In the frenzy this week to buy shares of shorted stock, small-scale investors have turned to American Airlines. Its stock is the most shorted of any major U.S. airline.
Credit…Kriston Jae Bethel for The New York Times

American Airlines appeared to seize an opportunity on Friday morning when it announced plans to raise more than $1.1 billion by selling shares amid a frenzy for its stock.

The airline this week found itself in the middle of a war of wills between amateur individual investors and professional traders at hedge funds and financial firms. The individual investors, who congregated on social media sites like Reddit, collectively bought up shares of companies like GameStop and AMC Entertainment that professionals had bet against. In so doing, some of these self-described financial insurgents earned big profits and forced some big investors to take major losses.

Emboldened by that success, the amateurs turned their attention to other companies whose stocks have been shorted, or bet against, including American. The airline said on Thursday that it lost nearly $9 billion last year, a figure that was largely ignored by the small-scale investors who tried to pile into its stock, despite being hamstrung by brokerage firms like Robinhood that restricted trading in several stocks, including American’s. The company’s stock rose more than 20 percent between Wednesday and Friday morning, but fell somewhat once regular trading began on Friday.

By issuing additional shares, American seems be making the most of the thirst for its stock while it can. There is no guarantee that interest will persist because online traders could easily decide to move onto other companies.

“American will need to shift its focus to fixing the balance sheet after demand comes back and the company begins generating cash again,” Helane Becker, managing director and senior airline analyst at Cowen, an investment bank, said in a note to clients on Thursday.

Airlines have been burning through cash since the pandemic took hold early last year. Air travel has recovered somewhat, but passenger traffic is still down about two-thirds compared with the same time in 2019.

American entered the pandemic with more debt than its rivals. As a result, professional investors have bet heavily against it. According to S3 Partners, a financial data firm, American is the most shorted major U.S. airline, with nearly 19 percent of its shares subject to short trades, compared to just 4.7 percent for JetBlue and 4.4 percent for United Airlines.

Credit…Greg Baker/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

HNA Group, a Chinese conglomerate that spent $50 billion on trophy businesses spanning the globe but has since grappled with high debt, said on Friday that a creditor has filed a petition for it to be declared bankrupt.

HNA said in a short statement that the creditor submitted the application to a court in the southern province of Hainan, where HNA is based, because the company had failed to pay its debts. The company did not say whether the court had ruled on the petition.

The announcement highlights challenges that continue to besiege the once high-flying company, which previously owned big stakes in Deutsche Bank, Hilton Hotels and Virgin Australia. HNA asked the Chinese government to help bail it out last year, blaming the impact of the coronavirus on flight cancellations for its debt woes.

Founded as a regional airline, HNA was once a rising star among a new breed of Chinese companies that included Anbang Insurance Group, Dalian Wanda and Fosun International. Lubricated by cheap loans from state-run banks and aided by strong political connections, these private companies scoured the world for splashy deals, buying hotels, production companies and even stakes in big global banks.

But as these companies expanded their empires, authorities worried that the huge debt bill they had racked up posed a lurking risk to China’s financial system.

Struggling under a massive $90 billion debt bill, HNA sold off billions of dollars’ worth of properties. At one point it was so strapped for cash that it asked its own employees to lend it money.

Eventually, HNA’s chairman admitted that the company was having trouble paying its bills and the salaries of some employees. Officials from the civil aviation administrator and China Development Bank stepped in last year to take over the responsibility of managing the company’s risk. HNA also gave two board seats to local government officials.

HNA said on Friday that it had been notified by a court in Hainan, where it is headquartered, that creditors applied for its bankruptcy. The company would cooperate with the court, it said in a statement on its website.

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