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Who doesn’t like a McFlurry? McDonald’s ice cream may seem like an unlikely trigger for a fresh bout of frenzied retail trading, but there’s still something odd going on with GameStop shares. And it has something to do with ice cream. Shares in the company doubled yesterday – not so amazing you might think given the recent volatility, but the pop came entirely in the final hour and a half of trading amid heavy volume. Trading in GME was halted twice and the move spread to other names that were part of the recent Reddit frenzy. AMC Entertainment rose 18% on exceptionally high volumes. GME shares rose another 83% in after-hours trade to $168, having started the session at $44.70.

Figuring out why all this occurred late in yesterday’s US session is harder to explain than the short squeeze of January. Heavy buying of bullish call options may have exaggerated the move, but didn’t cause it. The CFO’s departure – which is part of the shake-up that investors are hoping for – was known before the opening bell, so shares would have responded before 7pm GMT. It could, though, be related to a tweet from activist investor Ryan Cohen, who posted a picture of a McDonald’s ice cream just before 7pm, a couple of hours before the US cash equity close. Does it signal Cohen, the founder of Chewy.com and leading investor in GameStop, will fix the company the way McDonald’s finally fixed its ice cream machines? (For those who have never set foot in a McDonald’s, the ice cream machines are broken so frequently it has become a meme on Twitter.) Or could it be even more cryptic and related to a new website that tells you in real time whether your local McDonald’s has a functioning ice cream machine?  Who knows, stranger things have happened. It looks like the Reddit crowd are at it again.

 

GameStop shares have doubled again.

 

Yields continued to advance, with US 10 year Treasuries north of 1.4% at a fresh year high, whilst Japanese bond yields rose to their highest in over two years. This failed to worry the market, however, as Fed chair Jay Powell administered more soothing words on inflation. The Dow Jones rallied 1.35% to a record high, briefly touching on 32,000 and closing within 40pts of this marker. The S&P 500 rose over 1%, the Nasdaq recovered 1% and the Russell 2000 of small caps rose by more than 2.3%. European stocks rose tamely in early trade on Thursday. Gains for the FTSE 100 were capped by 13.4pts inn ex-divis but it nevertheless pushed on to almost 6,700. Gold retreated under $1,800, whilst Bitcoin was steady at $50k.

Vaccine progress is underpinning strength in cyclical names, with the Johnson & Johnson covid jab set to get the green light in the US after the FDA staff report said there are no safety concerns with the single-dose vaccine. Energy and Financials are at the top of the Stoxx 600 in Europe this morning. Bond proxies, tech and growth all remain more problematic as yields go higher.

Charlie Munger, long-time friend and partner of Warren Buffett at Berkshire Hathaway has lashed out at Bitcoin, Tesla, Robinhood and SPACs. Sounds like my kind of guy. Asked whether he thought Bitcoin at $50k or Tesla being valued at $1tn was the crazier, he said: “Well I have the same difficulty that Samuel Johnson once had when he got a similar question, he said, ‘I can’t decide the order of precedency between a flea and a louse,’ and I feel the same way about those choices. I don’t know which is worse.” There were some other great nuggets such as: “Bitcoin reminds me of what Oscar Wilde said about fox hunting. He said it was the pursuit of the uneatable by the unspeakable.” To which Bitcoin HODLers would no doubt respond by saying ‘have fun being poor’. Still Munger doesn’t invest in gold, so why would he invest in Bitcoin, since it is clearly not a currency? He also warned about blank cheque special purpose acquisition companies – or SPACs – saying they represent “crazy speculation in enterprises not even found or picked out yet” which is “a sign of an irritating bubble”.

Elsewhere, oil prices rose to their highest in over a year despite a surprise build in US crude inventories as the freezing weather in Texas shut refineries. Stockpiles increased by 1.3m barrels, vs expectations for a draw of more than 5m barrels. Stocks at Cushing, Oklahoma, rose for the first time in six weeks as refiners couldn’t take delivery. Bulls were buoyed, however, as US weekly crude output fell by 1.1m bpd, equally the biggest drop on record. The big freeze in Texas has really thrown the weekly numbers out of whack, but it’s clear demand is picking up. Everyone is now looking at the OPEC meeting next week on March 4th and an expected easing of self-imposed supply constraints.

In FX, sterling is trying to mount a fresh challenge at $1.42 after yesterday’s reversal. This looks more like a pause on the way to the $1.45 area for GBPUSD. Turning to Bank of America comments on sterling, which says the “backdrop could not be more conducive to further GBP gains as UK steadily re-emerges from lockdown and vax rollout remains exemplary. BoE discussion on neg rates is likely to be delayed into Q3, whilst GBP should benefit from structural seasonality in April”. That sounds bullish.

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