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The Crazy World of Stonks Explained

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The Crazy World of Stonks

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The Crazy World of Stonks Explained

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You may have seen diamond hands, rockets, and r/wallstreetbets rallying cries in the past few weeks—but what does it all mean? In this graphic we explain the events that led to an explosive rise in GameStop’s share price, along with the Reddit revolution fueling it.

Gamestop’s stock has been on a wild roller coaster ride, rising by roughly 640% from the start of last week to its peak. After Robinhood and other brokers initializing trading restrictions due to the heightened market activity, the stock has since fallen more than 80% to $90 per share.

But the stock’s volatile price action doesn’t come close to telling the story of how this market frenzy began on the Reddit community r/wallstreetbets, the hedge funds that suffered when GameStop share price rose dramatically, and why Robinhood halted trading last week.

The Beginning of the GameStop Saga

While GameStop’s share price went higher than anyone expected this past week, the initial idea behind this rally was shared back in September 2019 by u/DeepFuckingValue, a frequent user in the r/wallstreetbets subreddit, a community where trade and investment ideas are shared.

The premise of his trade idea was simple: he saw unrecognized value and much more upside potential compared to the downside risk in GameStop.

While people were eager to proclaim the death of physical game sales, u/DeepFuckingValue noted the new generation of consoles on the horizon would bring gamers back to GameStop. Along with the company’s new board of directors and solid balance sheet, GameStop wasn’t as poorly positioned as many thought.

Among those betting against the company were a variety of hedge funds and other players who had an outstanding short interest against the stock. Just like the legendary investor Michael Burry proposed after him, u/DeepFuckingValue noted the possibility of a short squeeze if GameStop’s share price moved higher.

ℹ️ A short squeeze is when price rises against open short positions to the point they close their positions by buying back the stock, resulting in a positive feedback loop which continues pushing price higher and putting pressure on other shorts.

GameStop Rockets to the Moon

A collection of shorts had amassed on the game retailer’s stock, with hedge funds like Melvin Capital Management holding onto shorts for multiple years despite GME being at all-time lows. The r/wallstreetbets community caught onto this high short interest and wanted to “squeeze” them out of their positions.

In August and September of 2020, GameStop broke up from its lows around $4 a share, and returned 66% and 53% respectively, reaching new highs of $11 a share. Hedge funds piled in further as short interest on publicly traded shares reached 120%, yet GameStop’s uptrend continued, reaching more than $20 a share by the end of December.

Here’s what’s happened since:

DateGameStop (GME) Share PriceDeepFuckingValue's Unrealized Profits
January 12$19.95$1.2M
January 13$31.40$3.9M
January 14$39.91$4.0M
January 15$35.50
January 19$39.36$3.9M
January 20$39.12
January 21$43.03
January 22$65.01$7.8M
January 25$76.79$8.3M
January 26$147.98$17.2M
January 27$347.51$33.4M
January 28$193.60$18.6M
January 29$325.00$31.6M
February 1$225.00$21.2M
February 2$90.21$7.6M

Sources: TradingView, /u/DeepFuckingValue’s Reddit posts

As GameStop’s price ran into the triple digits by the end of January, Melvin Capital was forced to close their short position despite a $2.75B investment from Citadel and Point72. At the same time, in just a few weeks, the number of r/wallstreetbets subscribers shot up from 1.8M to 8.3M.

Robinhood Halts Trading and Institutes Position Limits

On January 28th, when GameStop shares reached highs above $460, Robinhood and other brokers halted purchases of GameStop shares and options along with the ability to purchase fractional shares of securities. The broker had received a bill from the NSCC (National Securities Clearing Corporation) of $3B, reflective of the high volatility and value at risk on the platform.

In an informal interview with Elon Musk on Clubhouse, Robinhood CEO Vlad Tenev said that halting purchases and instituting position limits allowed the bill’s cost to ultimately drop to $700M. Before this interview, the company published a blog post of what happened on their end, along with an explainer of how trades are settled with clearinghouses.

While position limits which limited the amount of shares and options users could buy had originally been placed on 51 different securities, today only five have position limits. These include r/wallstreetbets favorites like GameStop (GME), AMC Entertainment (AMC), and Nokia (NOK).

Robinhood’s New Position Limits

SymbolSharesOptions Contracts
AMC1,2501,250
EXPR3,0003,000
GME100100
NAKD12,000N/A
NOK2,0002,000

You can see the latest position limits on Robinhood’s platform here.

Along with these position limits, Robinhood has instated further limitations related to pattern day traders. This limits users with less than $25,000 in their account to fewer than four trades over five business days.

r/wallstreetbets Discovers Dogecoin and Eyes Silver Shorts

As buying was halted for many of the preferred r/wallstreetbets stocks, the community shifted its attention to the cryptocurrency Dogecoin. Prior to the 28th, Dogecoin had been trading for $0.007 a coin, but in less than 24 hours the coin rose 1,000% to a high of $0.086.

Following this, the meme-based cryptocurrency has since levelled off around $0.033, which is still nearly a 350% return for anyone who had bought before the 28th.

Dogecoin cryptocurrency price rise

Since their foray into cryptocurrency, some r/wallstreetbets users have now identified silver as a new opportunity with short squeeze potential. Since the 28th, silver has risen about 5%. Increased volumes for various silver brokers caused delays or resulted in the suspension of silver purchases over the weekend.

Despite the rally and growing excitement around the precious metal, there are those in the r/wallstreetbets community who consider this a distraction. Malicious players with a short interest in GameStop may be trying to draw attention away from the GameStop short squeeze.

What’s Next for Robinhood and r/wallstreetbets?

Since these unprecedented market events, Robinhood raised $3.4B in an investment round to further support their goal of “expanding everyday investors’ ability to invest”. Yet the company faces dozens of lawsuits for their halting of share purchases on the 28th of January, and will likely have to put its IPO on the backburner.

Their decision to halt purchases ultimately removed large amounts of buy pressure from GameStop and other securities, and its newly instated position limits and pattern day trader rule have driven many users away from the platform.

With their actions, Robinhood unwittingly spurred a deep divide between Main Street and Wall Street. Many r/wallstreetbets members now feel their trades and investments carry an idealistic importance worth more than potential profits or losses.

While there is still plenty of this story left to play out, last week saw an irreversible change in how many individual investors perceive the market, its participants, and its rules. While new rules and regulations will change shape going forward, one thing is clear: the rise of information sharing has changed how financial markets will be traded forever.

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Green

Visualized: The Power of a Sustainable Investment Dollar

Do sustainable investments make a difference? From carbon emissions to board diversity, we break down their impact across three industries.

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Sustainable Investment

Visualizing the Power of a Sustainable Investment Dollar

Sustainable investments are booming.

Between January and November 2020 alone, investments in sustainable ETF and mutual funds grew 96%. The UN Principles of Responsible Investment now has over 3,000 signatories representing over $100 trillion in assets. The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission established a Climate Risk Unit to analyze climate risk across derivative markets, and as of March 2021, new sustainability disclosures have come into effect in Europe.

But how do we know if sustainable investments have made a difference?

To answer this question, the above infographic from MSCI examines the effect of a sustainable investment dollar by looking at real-world examples.

A Sustainable vs. Unsustainable Dollar

To start, investing legend Benjamin Graham has compared the stock market to a “voting machine.” Just as consumers vote with their purchasing decisions, investors vote with their investment dollars. Especially in the short term, as more dollars flow to sustainable companies, this builds their exposure and access to capital.

In the long term, meanwhile, the market can be compared to a weighing machine. The market recognizes companies with profitable business models that improve their intrinsic value over time. Ultimately, this allows sustainable companies to expand and continue operating.

Given the rising momentum in both green assets and climate targets, here is how investment dollars have influenced and driven change across three industries.

1. Clean Energy vs. Fossil Fuel

Over the last several years, the energy sector has been associated with many of the problems causing climate change. For this reason, many investors are seeking out greener energy alternatives. But how does moving investment dollars from an ESG laggard to an ESG leader support the environment and society?

First, here is a brief explainer of ESG laggards and leaders:

  • ESG laggards: companies with the weakest environmental, social, and governance (ESG) performance in their sector.
  • ESG leaders: companies with the strongest environmental, social, and governance (ESG) performance in their sector.
Industry laggard: U.S. oil & gas companyIndustry leader: U.S. utilities company
Scale of carbon-intensive business lines equal to 73% of its operation47% lower CO2 emissions than the industry average
This is the equivalent of adding 26 million cars on the road annuallyThis is the equivalent of removing 9.9 million cars off the road annually
1 of 20 oil and gas companies are responsible for contributing to one third of GHG emissions since 1965Uses 3X as many renewable sources than industry average
3X fewer jobs are created vs. energy efficient sector, resulting in lower productivityThis is roughly the same as saving over 9 million pounds of coal burned
MSCI ESG Rating: CCCMSCI ESG Rating: AAA

Source: MSCI ESG Research

Based on the above example, investors have the ability to finance powerful green initiatives that reduce emissions by almost half, relative to their peers.

2. Safe vs. Unsafe Working Conditions

Weak safety protocols are a key sustainability issue for the industrial sector. Here’s how two companies compare:

Industry laggard: South African mining companyIndustry leader: U.S. mining company
11 fatalities in 2019Zero fatalities in 2019
Faced lawsuits from miners surrounding lung diseases contracted from dust exposure in gold mines
Settlement cost: $350 million
Board-level oversight monitors health and safety performance
Lags behind peers in high incident ratesLeads peers in low incident rates
Lags behind peers in setting incident reduction targetsLeads industry in lost time incident rate & total recordable injury rate
MSCI ESG Rating: CCCMSCI ESG Rating: A

Source: MSCI ESG Research

Despite the risks involved in the sector, investors can choose to support companies that take greater precautions to protect their workers.

3. Building Trust vs. Losing Trust

Over the last several years, the financial sector has faced increased scrutiny over fraudulent activities. Moving investment dollars from an ESG laggard to ESG leader may make a difference:

Industry laggard: U.S. bankIndustry leader: Dutch bank
$3 billion settlement in creating fictitious accounts to meet aggressive sales targetsSustainable finance portfolio valued at over $20 billion
Drop in top-tier bank ratings13% annual increase in climate finance
Board effectiveness questionedIncludes over 60 green loans, mobilizing environmentally friendly projects
Resignation of board membersOver 55% of board is female
MSCI ESG Rating: CCCMSCI ESG Rating: A

Source: MSCI ESG Research

From board diversity to green loans, a sustainable investment dollar supports companies that are actively advancing society and the environment.

Sustainable Investment: The Time to Act

Recently, investor dollars and shareholder activism have been closely linked.

Between 2018 and 2020, large institutional investors filed 217 shareholder proposals on climate change alone, putting increased pressure on companies. Meanwhile, 270 proposals were filed on corporate political activity and 228 on fair labor and equal employment opportunity over the same timeframe. Across all ESG proposals, $2 trillion in assets were pushing for more equitable corporate action.

Through the power of a dollar, investors can send a clear signal to companies: the time for sustainable investing is now.

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Markets

China’s Economy: 40 Years of Soaring Exports

China’s economy today is completely different than 40 years ago; in 2021 the country makes up the highest share of exports globally.

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China's Economy

Animated Chart: 40 Years of Soaring Exports in China

China has the second highest GDP in the world, and it exports 15% of all the world’s goods. But how did this come to be?

A mere 40 years ago, China’s economy was in an entirely different situation, making up less than 1% of global exports and still in the infancy stages of building its economy. The above animated chart from the UNCTAD showcases China’s rise to global trade dominance over time.

Timeline: The Rise to Power

The China of the mid-20th century looks remarkably different when compared to the modern-day nation. Prior to the 1980s, China was going through a period of social upheaval, poverty, and dictatorship under Mao Zedong.

The 1970s

Beginning in the late 1970s, China’s share of global exports stood at less than 1%. The country had few trade hubs and little industry. In 1979, for example, Shenzhen was a city of just around 30,000 inhabitants.

In fact, China (excluding Taiwan* and Hong Kong) did not even show up in the top 10 global exporters until 1997 when it hit a 3.3% share of global exports.

YearShare of Global ExportsRank
20004.0%#7
20057.3%#3
201010.3%#1
201513.7%#1
202014.7%#1

*Editor’s note: The above data comes from the UN, which lists Taiwan as a separate region of China for political reasons.

The 1980s

In the 1980s, several cities and regions, like the Pearl River Delta, were designated as Special Economic Zones. These SEZs had tax incentives that worked to attract foreign investment.

Additionally, in 1989, the Coastal Development Strategy was implemented to use strategic regions along the country’s coast as catalysts for economic development.

The 1990s and Onwards

By the 1990s, the world saw the rise of global value chains and transnational production lines, with China offering a cheap manufacturing hub due to low labor costs.

Rounding out the ‘90s, the Western Development Strategy was implemented in 1999, dubbed the “Open Up the West” program. This program worked to build up infrastructure and education to retain talent in China’s economy, with the goal of attracting further foreign investment.

Finally, China officially joined the World Trade Organization in 2001 which allowed the country to progress full steam ahead.

Made in China

Today China is a trade giant and manufacturing behemoth. Only the U.S. and Germany come close to its share of global exports, sitting at 8.1% and 7.8% respectively.

RankCountryShare of Global Exports (2020)
#1🇨🇳 China14.7%
#2🇺🇸 U.S. 8.1%
#3🇩🇪 Germany7.8%
#4🇳🇱 Netherlands3.8%
#5🇯🇵 Japan3.6%
#6🇭🇰 Hong Kong SAR3.1%
#7🇰🇷 South Korea2.9%
#8🇮🇹 Italy2.8%
#9🇫🇷 France2.8%
#10🇧🇪 Belgium2.4%

China’s manufacturing industry has become dominant in producing just about anything from commonplace household items to integral pieces in automotive manufacturing. Some staples of Chinese manufacturing are:

  • Precision instruments
  • Semiconductors
  • Industrial machinery for computers and smartphones

COVID-19 made China’s integral role in the global economy even more visceral, as major delays in the supply chain occurred when the virus hit the country.

An Economic Superpower

In 2021, China’s trade recovery from the crisis has bested most other countries—in Q1 2021, its exports grew by almost 50% compared to the previous year’s quarter, to around $710 billion.

And the country is not slowing down any time soon. Further plans for economic development are well under way, like Made in China 2025, with the goal of becoming a dominant player in global high-tech manufacturing. Additionally, the famous One Belt, One Road initiative has been funding infrastructure projects globally over the past decade, and the country is also a founding member of the RCEP—which is soon to be the world’s biggest trading bloc.

However, China still faces a series of challenges, such as:

  • Population decline
  • The onset of labor saving technology
  • Trade wars with U.S. and sanctions from other trade partners, like Europe
  • The emergence of ASEAN trade powers, like Vietnam

A declining population has many implications like a shrinking workforce and domestic market. Additionally, many companies are setting up shop in less costly manufacturing hubs like Vietnam.

Furthermore, inexpensive innovations in labor-saving technologies, such as robotics and automation, have already begun to undermine the cheap manual labor that has made China the world’s manufacturer.

All of these elements and more could potentially spell a slowing of growth in China’s export dominance. However, while the future for China may not be certain, currently, global trade and production could not function without it.

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