Meme Stocks on Brink of Bear Market as Retail Frenzy Fades

It may be time to break out the “Crying Jordan” meme.

A basket of retail traders’ favorite stocks is tumbling close to a bear-market plunge of 20% as investors shun the most speculative equities for safer bets.

The group of 37 so-called meme stocks tracked by Bloomberg fell 2.6% on Thursday, extending its retreat from a June 8 high to just shy of 20%. The basket bounced off its 50-day moving average, a level it hasn’t closed below since late May when a massive surge in AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc. captivated investors.

Meme Stocks on Brink of Bear Market as Retail Frenzy Fades

The index has been bogged down over the past month by losses for Chamath Palihapitiya-backed Clover Health Investments Corp. as well as GameStop Corp. and other speculative plays like BlackBerry Ltd. and Naked Brand Group. All four of the stocks have shed at least a quarter of their value in the past month.

The declines come amid signs that the day-trader frenzy that erupted during pandemic lockdowns may be cooling off. Goldman Sachs analyst Will Nance cited an approximately 30% decrease in retail stock trading when downgrading shares of brokerage Charles Schwab Corp. to neutral from buy on Thursday.

Meme Stocks on Brink of Bear Market as Retail Frenzy Fades

Pain from the selloff in the market’s riskiest assets has delivered blows to some of the most-vocal retail investors.

Take Barstool Sports’ Dave Portnoy as a prime example of investors who bet the stock market only goes up. The media star, who has a cult-like following of investors on social media, vented on his “Davey Day Trader” livestream that he’s been losing more than $150,000 every day lately and hasn’t “had a good day in this godforsaken game in a month-and-a-half.”

While some retail traders who have been using the stock market as a way to make boom or bust bets have been feeling the pain, buying into more standard exchange-traded funds and stocks has held up, according to Vanda Research.

“Retail flows overall have been fairly healthy over the past couple of weeks, though we’re clearly seeing a moderation in buying among the traditional meme names like AMC,” said Eric Liu, co-founder and head of research at Vanda Securities.

The Nasdaq 100 tracking Invesco QQQ Trust Series 1, Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic Holdings Inc. and semiconductor heavyweight Micron Technology Inc., are among the stocks or exchange-traded funds most bought by retail investors over the past week, Vanda’s data show.

The volatility for the group of retail-trader favorites comes about a week after a Morgan Stanley call for Wall Street pros to follow their less-sophisticated peers. Since the bank’s note, the group of meme stocks has slumped nearly 6% compared with a 0.7% rise for the S&P 500 Index.

Even with the latest selloff, the meme index’s 14-day Relative Strength Index -- a measure of the persistence and magnitude of price movement -- is far from flashing a sign for investors to take advantage of the weakness. When the RSI drops below 30, a stock or index is considered oversold. It’s currently at 44, the lowest since May 14.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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