By David Randall, Sinéad Carew and Sagarika Jaisinghani
(Reuters) -Shares of AMC Entertainment edged lower on Friday, closing out a wild week with a gain of just over 83% as the action reinvigorated the meme stock craze and the investors behind it
“AMC has a very strong following of believers,” said Dennis Dick, proprietary trader at Bright Trading LLC. “They’re trying to hold strong, and they believe they’re going to drive this to the moon.”
The movie theater chain’s shares ended the day down 6.7% to $47.91 after trading in both positive and negative territory during the session.
AMC has been at the center of a fresh wave of buying by retail investors who hyped the stock in forums such as Reddit’s WallStreetBets, breathing new life into a phenomenon that began with January’s more than 1,600% gain in GameStop. Meme stocks got the name because their explosion in trading volume stems from interest and promotion on social media.
The past week’s blistering rally saw the market capitalization of AMC, which was at the brink of bankruptcy not long ago, swell to nearly $24 billion and put its year-to-date gain at 2,160%. The rise in part reflects optimism about the re-opening of public venues like cinemas after pandemic shutdowns, but most analysts say that the scale of the rally is out of line with AMC’s fundamentals.
Despite the big gains, short interest in AMC held relatively steady during the week, with 88.20 million shares shorted by the end of Thursday’s session equating to 17.65% of AMC’s float, according to the latest available data from S3 Partners.
“We have seen AMC short-covering this week, but by no means are we seeing a wholesale short squeeze in this stock at the moment,” said Ihor Dusaniwsky, managing director of predictive analytics at S3.
A short squeeze, which occurs when a rising share price forces bearish investors to unwind their bets, helped fuel the big rally in GameStop earlier this year.
Short interest in AMC stood at around 20% earlier in the week, the firm’s data showed. Shorts are now down $3.98 billion in year-to-date mark-to-market losses.
Some Wall Street banks, including Bank of America Corp, Citigroup Inc and Jefferies Financial Group LLC, have tightened their rules for who can bet against some meme stocks, Bloomberg reported Friday, citing people familiar with the moves.
TD Ameritrade put in place trading limitations on AMC Entertainment Holdings’ shares, the retail brokerage’s website showed on Friday.
SECOND SHARE OFFERING
Meanwhile, several AMC executives on Friday reported personal stock sales totaling more than 88,0000 shares after the close of trading.
AMC on Thursday completed its second share offering in three days, taking advantage of a nearly 400% surge in its share price since mid-May.
“AMC has made the best of its current ‘meme stock’ status by selling shares at a premium, and has raised significant capital doing so,” said Wedbush analyst Alicia Reese, who raised her firm’s price target on AMC to $7.50 from $6.50.
“We expect significant volatility in shares of AMC to continue, driven by trading momentum unrelated to AMC’s fundamentals,” Reese said.
BlackBerry Ltd, a cybersecurity software company whose shares have been caught up in a social media-driven rally, slid 12.5%, leaving it with a 37.9% gain for the week . The company’s shares are up 98.3% year-to-date.
Shares of meme stocks GameStop and Koss Corp were down 3.8% and 12.6%, respectively.
This week’s rally in AMC and other social media darlings sparked celebration among some WallStreetBets users, while others exhorted one another to hold onto their shares and looked forward to next week.
“The shorts are playing a dangerous game and soon they will be burnt. They are shaking off panic sellers,” wrote Reddit user KocaKolaKlassic in a thread focused on Blackberry shares. “Eventually there will be very few and to the moon we go.”
(Reporting by Sagarika Jaisinghani and Aaron Saldanha in Bengaluru; Sinead Carew and David Randall in New York; Editing Cynthia Osterman)