NEW YORK - GameStop gyrated wildly on Wednesday, continuing a ride that has vaulted shares of the video game retailer and other so-called meme stocks near levels last seen during their late-January rally. Shares of GameStop were last up 6.8% at $263.60 after multiple NYSE trading halts following turbulent trading that saw them rise by as much as 41% to a peak of $348.50, a move some analysts said was driven in part by bearish investors unwinding their bets against the stock. The rally put the company’s market capitalization at $18.7 billion, making it the biggest listing on the S&P 600 index of small-cap stocks. At their peak on Wednesday, GameStop shares were up 800% from last month's low but this was still 28% below their late January peak. Traders had exchanged almost $17 billion worth of GameStop shares by late afternoon, making it the second most-traded company on Wall Street, after Tesla and ahead of Apple. Other stocks popular with retail investors in forums such as Reddit’s WallStreetBets also saw outsized gains, with headphone maker Koss Corp soaring more than 100% at one point and cinema operator AMC Entertainment rising nearly 19% before erasing gains. Investors short GameStop shares have incurred over $1.3 billion in losses over the last couple of days, forcing some to abandon their positions and buy back the stock in a phenomenon known as a short squeeze, said Ihor Dusaniwsky, managing director of predictive analytics at S3 Partners. Shorts have covered some 3 million shares over the last seven days, worth $742 million, the firm’s data showed. "As GameStop keeps going up, we are going to continue to see short-covering as more shorts reach their maximum pain threshold and are forced out of their trades," Dusaniwsky said. GameStop retains a legion of devout followers after a social media frenzy in January triggered a massive rally in which its shares surged more than 1,600%. That spike triggered a short squeeze that shook hedge funds such as Melvin Capital, which were forced to cover their positions on GameStop. But fuel for further short squeezes may be running out: About 20.5% of GameStop's share float is sold short, the lowest in at least three years, according to S3 data. Market strategists have also said tens of billions of dollars of U.S. President Joe Biden's coronavirus relief package could indirectly find their way into shares, possibly boosting "meme stocks" that are heavily promoted by retail traders in online social media forums. GameStop bulls have also pointed to a hoped-for transition to e-commerce for the video game retailer, led by shareholder and Chewy.com co-founder Ryan Cohen, who is on the company's board. The company has said it would report earnings on March 23. Denizens of WallStreetBets celebrated the move and exhorted one another to hold on for more gains, while others lamented selling too early. "Makes (me) physically sick I sold all 39 shares of GME at $120 at a loss cause I thought it wasn’t happening again," Reddit user TheKingTodo wrote. Separately, on Wednesday, shares of U.S. gaming company Roblox Corp jumped 43% in its New York Stock Exchange trading debut, valuing the company at around $42 billion. Posts on social media platforms including Reddit suggest the company's shares may draw interest from retail investors that have favored GameStop and other names whose wild rides have captivated Wall Street this year. REUTERS
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