AMC Flywheel Effect Hits a Snag Despite Record Call Volume

An attempted gamma squeeze by Reddit-inspired traders on AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc. quickly unraveled as shares in the movie theater operator turned lower Friday.

This week’s scorching surge looked to have been fueled in part by a massive push into bullish options. When there’s a run on calls during a rapid stock rally, it can force additional stock-buying in a potential feedback loop. But by Friday afternoon, the stock’s gains had been significantly pared back.

A record 2 million AMC calls were purchased on Thursday as the stock soared 36%. And then on Friday when the stock opened 20% higher, another 2 million calls were bought by 2 p.m. The shares last traded up 3.3% after briefly turning negative earlier.

The traders’ gamma hedging may not have had a lasting flywheel effect due simply to the fact that the U.S. is facing a three-day weekend, and most of the enthusiasm around AMC is coming from day traders, according to Susquehanna International Group.

“Once the rally was underway, the increase in option volume exacerbated the momentum,” Susquehanna co-head of derivatives strategy Chris Murphy said. However, “All of this trading is very short-term, so a three-day weekend is like an eternity.”

AMC Flywheel Effect Hits a Snag Despite Record Call Volume

AMC was also caught in the initial day-trader frenzy earlier this year, which swept up the likes of GameStop Corp. to dizzying heights as retail investors mobilized. Now another surge in retail trading has emerged with AMC as the main focus: #AMCSTRONG has been trending on Twitter, and it was the most-cited company on the forum Stocktwits for four consecutive days this week.

Earlier this year options were also a compounding factor in January’s meme-stock frenzy, with all-time high levels of GameStop calls bought. Bullish contracts on AMC had also reached a record in February, which has now been dwarfed by the current levels.

“You can’t have people buy 2 million call options on an almost bankrupt stock without making it go up,” said Benn Eifert, chief investment officer of QVR Advisors. “Dealers were short a lot of gamma and bought stock, accelerating the rally.”

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