GameStop mania severely tested market system, regulator says
NEW YORK — The U.S. stock market certainly shook when hundreds of thousands of regular people suddenly piled into GameStop early this year, driving its price to heights that shocked professional investors. But it didn’t break.
That’s one of the takeaways from a report by the Securities and Exchange Commission’s staff released Monday about January’s “meme-stock” mania. As GameStop’s stock shot from $39 to $347 in just a week, some of the stock market’s plumbing began creaking, but the report indicated the market’s basic systems and operations remained sound.
The surge for GameStop and other downtrodden stocks also laid bare how much power is being wielded by a new generation of smaller-pocketed and novice investors, armed with apps on their phones that make trading fun.
“The extreme volatility in meme stocks in January 2021 tested the capacity and resiliency of our securities markets in a way that few could have anticipated,” the report said. “At the same time, the trading in meme stocks during this time highlighted an important feature of United States securities markets in the 21st century: broad participation.”
Many of the points in the report were already known, such as how the extremely heavy bets made by some hedge funds against GameStop’s stock actually helped accelerate its extreme ascent, though they weren’t the main driver.
The report also didn’t make any recommendations for changes to how the market is structured, but it pointed to several areas for further consideration. They include topics that SEC Chair Gary Gensler has already cited in recent speeches, such as whether the way some brokerages make their money encourages them to push customers to trade more often than they should.
The report also indicated the SEC could further scrutinize events that may cause a brokerage to restrict trading in a stock. During the height of the frenzy, several brokerages barred customers from buying GameStop after the clearinghouse that settles their trades demanded more cash to cover the increased risk .