Stocks claw back some lost ground; GameStop swings wildly

Damian J. Troise and Alex Veiga
Associated Press

New York – Stocks closed broadly higher on Wall Street Thursday, helping the market recoup some of its losses a day after its biggest pullback in nearly three months.

Investors continued to closely watch the wild swings in GameStop, AMC and several other stocks which have become targets for hordes of online investors who have sent them skyrocketing in recent days, taking on big hedge funds who have bet they will fall.

Several of those stocks fell sharply after Robinhood and other trading platforms restricted trading in them, causing an outcry among customers. The chaotic trading action is drawing calls in Washington and elsewhere for regulatory action to curb the speculative frenzy.

In this Jan. 3, 2020 file photo, the Wall St. street sign is framed by American flags flying outside the New York Stock Exchange in New York.

The S&P 500 rose 36.61 points, or 1%, to 3,787.38, lifting the benchmark index out of the red for the year. It had lost 2.6% a day earlier, its biggest drop since October.

The Dow Jones industrial average gained 300.19 points, or 1%, to 30,603.36. The Nasdaq composite added 66.56 points, or 0.5%, to 13,337.16. The Russel 2000 index of smaller companies slipped 2.09 points, or 0.1%, to 2,106.61.

Mike Zigmont, director of trading and research at Harvest Volatility Management, said the cascade on Wednesday likely began when larger institutions started taking steps to reduce their exposure to risk at the same time, partly because of the sharp and questionable gains in several stocks. That prompted others in the market to follow suit, accelerating the decline. Similar sentiment may have driven shares higher Thursday.

“You listen to your models and suddenly everybody is de-risking together and everything cascades.” he said. “Then you sleep on it and things don’t look so bad.”

Gamestop skidded 44.3% to close at $193.60, after swinging in a gigantic range between $112 and $483. At the beginning of the year it was trading under $18 a share. Meanwhile, AMC Entertainment fell 56.6%, after rising nearly 600% this month alone.

Investors also continued to focus on company earnings. More than 100 companies in the S&P 500 are scheduled to tell investors this week how they fared during the last three months of 2020.

Apple fell 3.5% after the iPhone maker posted a record quarterly profit, helped by big sales of iPhones and Apple Watches during the holiday season. Investors focused on the fact that Apple was conservative in its full-year outlook for 2021, which the company cited economic uncertainty and the pandemic as part of the reason for the forecast.

Meanwhile. hopes are high for President Joe Biden’s proposed a $1.9 trillion COVID-relief package, but worries are growing the plan might also be scaled back. Adding to caution, the Federal Reserve said Wednesday it would keep its low interest rate policies in place, but it also released a sobering assessment of the gradual recovery ahead.

“Investors will likely focus on the pace of vaccinations around the globe while also keeping an eye on the progress of President Biden’s fiscal rescue plan that may be facing some roadblocks in the U.S. Senate,” Prakash Sakpal and Nicholas Mapa, senior economists at ING, said in a report.

Markets had been meandering near record highs since last week as investors weighed solid corporate earnings results against renewed worries that troubles with COVID-19 vaccine rollouts and the spread of new variants of coronavirus might delay a recovery from the pandemic.