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GameStop slides, silver spree stalls as retail traders run out of road

GameStop shares slid in Frankfurt and U.S. pre-market trade on Tuesday and a silver buying spree led by small investors subsided as retail-driven mania for shorted assets started to show signs of fizzling out.

GameStop's Frankfurt-listed shares were down 30% from Monday's close at 143 euros ($172.72) in early trade on Tuesday, after the firm's stock closed at $225 in U.S. markets. It fell 23% to $173 in pre-market U.S. trade.

Spot silver prices fell more than 4% to $27.66 an ounce to sit some 8% beneath the eight-year high made on Monday, when retail traders bought coins and piled into silver funds to set prices spiking.

Analysts said the silver pullback may show the limits of small investors' impact in a large market, while posts on the popular Reddit forum WallStreetBets expressed concern that silver buying could cost traders their grip on some stocks.

The social media-driven trading frenzy "could be slowly ending", said OANDA market analyst Edward Moya. "Like all good rollercoaster rides, they all come to an end."

Retail buyers' darling GameStop Corp dropped 30.8% on Monday, though it remains about 1,000% higher than a couple of weeks ago, before an organised band of small buyers piled in and forced a "squeeze" which required big funds to close short positions by buying shares at very high prices.

Other shares caught up in a frenzy that has battered short-sellers extended their advance, including BlackBerry Ltd.

Online broker Robinhood, on whose platform much of the buying and selling has taken place, also raised another $2.4 billion from shareholders just days after investors pumped in $1 billion.

"It certainly feels like there's some evidence of peak retail stall, but hard to gauge since they're still sitting on decent profits," said Mirabaud's London-based equity sales trader Mark Taylor.

"With volumes in all the hot stocks collapsing, silver attack met by margin, Robinhood having to seek fresh collateral at a rampant speed, the signals that the retail mania could unravel rapidly are aligning."

Small traders' involvement in financial markets has grown sharply over the past year as lockdowns, volatility and stimulus cheques have combined to drive an investment surge that has turbocharged a huge rally in global equities since last March.

Day-trading mania has boosted the price of assets ranging from cryptocurrencies to new stock market listings. In London a sign of still-strong demand came from online greeting-card retailer Moonpig, which leapt 25% on debut on Tuesday.

The showdown between short-selling hedge funds and the small-time day traders also has also drawn scrutiny from financial regulators, lawmakers and the White House, concerned about possible market manipulation.

Robinhood continued to roll back trading curbs on Monday, raising trading limits on GameStop to 20 shares from four.

Weak prices in pre-market trade may serve as a guide to where the phenomenon is headed next, although broader markets appeared to be moving on from jitters the frenzied buying had triggered and equities in Asia rose broadly on stimulus hopes. [MKTS/GLOB]

The number of shorted GameStop shares has fallen by more than half in a week, analytics firm S3 Partners said on Monday, although the videogame retailer remained the sixth-biggest short by value.

"Short-squeeze mania has calmed a bit for this week," said Chris Brankin, chief executive of broker TD Ameritrade in Singapore.


Silver's slumping spot price on Tuesday came even as dealers reported brisk trade in Asia, albeit below Monday's massive volumes, suggesting a further squeeze higher might be unlikely.

A lot of people who were anticipating a GameStop-like rally in silver "now realize there is not as much buying pressure pushing it up" as some had thought, said Michael Matousek, head trader at U.S. Global Investors.

An additional drag on prices was an overnight margin hike by the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, which makes speculative trade using derivatives products more expensive.

"Silver is much more liquid compared to stocks, and there are costs to holding the metal," said Benjamin Yeo, head of dealing at Phillip Futures in Singapore, where on Monday silver futures volumes had been surging.

"In the short term, we can expect more volatility from the retail buying interest, but do not think it is sustainable."

The unit price of Australia's ETF Securities' Physical Silver fund fell 1% in Sydney after drawing a record A$76 million ($58 million) in inflows on Monday. Small silver miners, which had leapt, also retraced some of their gains.

"It is slowing down a bit," said Gregor Gregersen, founder of Silver Bullion, a dealer in Singapore, after a wild 24 hours where he said sales exceeded average monthly levels from 2018 and orders above S$35,000 ($26,300) arrived every three minutes.

Reddit moderators had on Tuesday removed one of the most popular posts suggesting buying silver and many WallStreetBets posts focused on riding out the volatility.


(Reporting by Adinarayan Thyagaraju in London, Sumita Layek and Swati Verma in Bangalore; Writing by Tom Westbrook; Editing by Jan Harvey)

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