Clover Health Roars to Record as Short Sellers Get Burned

Clover Health Inc., a health insurer backed by venture capitalist Chamath Palihapitiya, was swept up in meme-stock mania on Tuesday, posting a second day of wild gains as retail investors banded together to punish short-sellers betting against the company.

Clover rallied 86% to close at $22.15 in New York trading after briefly doubling intraday. The gains erased five months of losses in the stock -- which formed part of a broader selloff in Palihapitiya-backed companies -- in just two days. Trading volume in Clover was more than 29 times the three-month daily average on Tuesday, with a record 718 million shares changing hands.

The sudden flurry of demand comes after retail traders realized that short-sellers had been swelling their bets against Clover, a move that left them vulnerable if the stock were to start rallying. The stock’s story -- like many retail plays -- has left behind fundamentals with shares trading above $20, that’s more than twice the average analyst estimate.

On the Reddit forum WallStreetBets, chatter has built this week on the potential for a short-squeeze in the stock, following similar successful ploys on meme stocks including Workhorse Group Inc. and Richard Branson’s space exploration company Virgin Galactic Holdings Inc., which advanced 12% and 8.1%, respectively.

Bearish bets in Clover have been steadily climbing since March and now stand at over $580 million or 44% of the public float, according to data from S3 Partners. Daytraders also touted the stock’s potential inclusion into the Russell indices -- a rebalancing of those benchmarks is expected toward the end of June.

Clover Health Roars to Record as Short Sellers Get Burned

“Short sellers appear to be shorting into a rising market and overheated stocks, they are looking for a pullback off of these elevated levels,” said Ihor Dusaniwsky, S3’s managing director of predictive analytics.

Short sellers were down about $465 million on today’s move for a year-to-date loss of $517 million, he said.

Clover declined to comment on the moves.

Meme Advance

Other retail-trader favorites, such as AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc. and GameStop Corp., see-sawed on Tuesday amid heavy volume. Wendy’s Co., the latest addition to the retail-trader frenzy, climbed to a record amid touts on Reddit.

“The power of the network effect of social media entices more people to get involved, so then they start broadening their horizons, looking for other names that have high short interest and things like that,” said Michael O’Rourke, chief market strategist at JonesTrading.

Before June, Clover saw its value split in half, with the once-hot market for companies brought to the market via SPACs, or blank-check companies, cooling off amid increased regulatory oversight.

The outspoken Palihapitiya has remained undaunted. He plans to list 26 blank-check companies -- one for each letter of the alphabet -- and he kicked off with four new companies targeting the biotech sector last week. Clover is now up more than 30% for the year after a six-day winning streak.

Clover’s head, Vivek Garipalli, who started off as a daytrader two decades ago, has embraced the support from retail investors.

“We are a big believer in the retail investor community,” Garipall said on the company’s earnings call in May, one which invited Reddit users to participate.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

BQ Install

Bloomberg Quint

Add BloombergQuint App to Home screen.