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They’re back! Meme-stock mania returns to Wall Street

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Wall Street and individual investors are once again dashing in and out of so-called meme stocks as the appetite for riskier assets revives and volatility grips the group.

A basket of 37 meme stocks tracked by Bloomberg has surged 45% off a March bottom, rallying in 9 of 11 sessions as millions of shares change hands. A flurry of trading activity in out-of-the-money call options — a favored trading method among retail investors seeking to capitalize on rapid gains in an individual stock — have helped fuel the latest swings.

The pick up in that options volume “suggests that the most speculative retail crowd on WallStreetBets and similar is chasing the rebound aggressively,” said Giacomo Pierantoni at Vanda Securities, which tracks retail-trading flows.

Meme stocks saw a pick-up in retail-investor demand on Monday, Vanda data showed, with AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc. and GameStop Corp. seeing the largest flow of individual investor money in months as both surged higher. Retail traders snapped up $48.1 million in AMC shares Monday, bringing net purchases over the past week to $102.7 million, while GameStop saw a $2.4 million inflow, the most since January, according to Vanda.

The seller of video-games and the movie-theater firm both closed on Monday at their highest level in at least three months, with AMC extending the gain Tuesday and GameStop giving back a sliver of the rise. While eye-catching, the recent rallies in meme stocks pales in comparison to rallies seen in 2021, when stocks such as GameStop nearly tripled in a single morning.

Still, the stocks’ appeal — and the trading volatility surrounding the memes — is not over yet, according to Ed Moya, senior market strategist at Oanda.

“Some of the favorite meme stocks, AMC and GameStop have long-term visions that include betting on gold mines and crypto,” he said in a message.

AMC gained some 1.9% Tuesday, a modest move compared with the 45% advance Monday. But Hycroft Mining Holding Corp., the gold miner in which AMC bought a 22% stake earlier this month, jumped 11% after rallying 81% on Monday.

Short covering from institutional investors may have boosted the recent surge, analysts said, given retail investors’ contrarian trading approach, which usually pitches them against short sellers. Nearly one-quarter of GameStop shares available for trading are currently sold short, according to data from analytics firm S3 Partners, while AMC’s short interest sits at roughly 21%.

“In a bullish market, professional investors would not try to short these stocks again,” Vanda’s Pierantoni said. “But in this bearish environment/high vol regime, it will be harder to see a melt-up similar to what we had in Q1 2021.”

SOURCE: BLOOMBERG

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BUSINESS

UK inflation hits new 40-year high of 10.1% as food and energy price surge continues

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U.K. inflation rose to another 40-year high in July as spiraling food and energy prices continued to intensify the country’s historic squeeze on households.

The consumer price index rose 10.1% annually, according to estimates published by the Office for National Statistics on Wednesday, above a Reuters consensus forecast of 9.8% and up from 9.4% in June.

Core inflation, which excludes energy, food, alcohol and tobacco, came in at 6.2% in the year to July 2022, rising from 5.8% in June and ahead of projections of 5.9%.

British 2-year Gilt yields surged on Wednesday morning after the release, adding more than 26 basis points to reach 2.41%, their highest point since November 2008.

Rising food prices made the largest upward contribution to annual inflation rates between June and July, the ONS said in its report.

“Supermarkets have had little choice but to pass on price increases from suppliers, themselves contending with unprecedented inflation in raw material and ingredient input costs,” said Kien Tan, director of retail strategy at PwC.

“This has been particularly acute in labour and utility intensive categories like dairy, with reports of the price of a pint of milk having more than doubled in some stores since the start of the year.”

The ONS repeated that its indicative modelled consumer price inflation estimates “suggest that the CPI rate would last have been higher around 1982, where estimates range from nearly 11% in January down to approximately 6.5% in December.”

The Bank of England has implemented six consecutive hikes to interest rates as it looks to rein in inflation, and earlier this month launched its largest single increase since 1995 while projecting that the U.K. will enter its longest recession since the global financial crisis in the fourth quarter of the year.

The Bank expects inflation to top out at 13.3% in October. Conservative Party leadership candidates Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak, one of whom will succeed Boris Johnson as prime minister on Sept. 5 after a poll of party members, are under increasing pressure to offer radical solutions to the country’s historic cost-of-living crisis.

The latest forecasts suggest the U.K.’s energy price cap could rise to £4,266 ($5,170) annually early next year from its current £1,971, with many households already choosing between heating and eating. The cap is expected to rise to more than £3,000 in October following the next review.

Real wages in the U.K. fell by an annual 3% in the second quarter of 2022, according to ONS data published Tuesday, the sharpest decline on record.

Despite average pay excluding bonuses increasing by 4.7%, the cost of living is far outpacing wage growth and squeezing household incomes.

“Today’s inflation figures serve as a further reminder to many UK households that they are facing a period of considerable financial hardship,” said Dan Howe, head of investment trusts at Janus Henderson.

“Consumers are already grappling with rising energy costs and surging household prices, all compounded by a lack of decisive action at the political level. Amid talks of strikes and energy blackouts, there is no doubt that tough decisions lie ahead of U.K. families.”

Richard Carter, head of fixed interest research at Quilter Cheviot, predicted that the Bank of England will likely respond at its next monetary policy meeting with yet another 50 basis point interest rate hike in a bid to combat inflation, and said there is no doubt that the cost-of-living crisis is going to get worse before it gets better.

“As such, there will no doubt be a lot of pressure on the next Prime Minister to help soften the blow and the Bank of England will continue to have a very difficult job on its hands,” he added.

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External reserves sustains downward trend, sheds $337m in 2wks

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Nigeria’s external reserves fell by $337 million in the first two weeks of August, maintaining its declining trend since the middle of last month.

Data from the Central Bank of Nigeria showed that the external reserves fell to $38.882 billion on Thursday August 11th, 2022, from $39.219 billion at the end of July 2022.

This indicates that the external reserves has lost $563 million since July 18, when it commenced the latest downward trend.

Prior to July 18, the external reserves had maintained a 40 days upward trend, rising by $976 million to $39.445 billion from $38.421 billion on June 6th, buoyed by rise in the price of crude oil, which accounts for over 80 per cent of the nation’s foreign exchange  earnings.

However, analysts at Financial Derivatives Company Limited, FDC, attributed the declining fortunes of the reserves since July 18 to increased dollar sales by the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, in its bid to stabilise the exchange rate.

While projecting further decline in the external reserves, they however maintained that the increased dollar supply by the apex bank will lead to appreciation of the naira at the official and parallel market.

Making this projection in the FDC Bi-Monthly Economic Bulletin, they said: “The depletion on the reserves was majorly due to CBN’s supply of foreign exchange to stabilise the currency.

“The external reserves is expected to continue its downward trend as the CBN intensifies its efforts to stabilise the currency by supplying foreign exchange to the I & E (Investors and Exporters) window.

“Because of the country’s low oil production levels, high oil prices may have less of an impact on the country’s external reserves.

“A constant depletion of the external reserves is likely to discourage the CBN from supplying foreign exchange in the foreign exchange market. This could further stoke currency depreciation as demand outpaces supply.”

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Nigeria loses N101bn worth of oil, says OPEC

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Nigeria’s crude oil production plunged by 2.3 million barrels in July 2022 when compared to what the country produced in the preceding month of June, data from the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries showed on Thursday.

In its latest Monthly Oil Market Report for August 2022, OPEC stated that crude oil production figures based on direct communication indicated that Nigeria’s output dropped by an average of 74,000 barrels per day in July.

This implies that for the 31 days in July, the country lost about 2.3 million barrels of crude oil. The organisation further stated that the average cost of Brent crude, the global benchmark for oil, during the month under review was $105.12/barrel.

By losing 2.3 million barrels in July this year, it means Nigeria’s oil earnings fell by about $241.1m or N101.13bn (at the official exchange rate of N419.37/$) in the month under review.

Data from OPEC showed that Nigeria’s oil production in June 2022 was 1.158 million barrels per day, but this dropped to 1.084 million barrels per day in July.

The country had produced 1.024 million barrels per day in May this year, according to figures released by OPEC on Thursday.

The Federal Government, operators and experts have consistently fingered crude oil theft in the Niger Delta as the major reason for Nigeria’s poor output and its continued failure to meet the monthly oil production quota approved by OPEC.

The Chief Executive Officer, Centre for the Promotion of Private Enterprise, Dr. Muda Yusuf, blamed the challenges in the oil sector on the high level of insecurity across the country.

This, he said, had continued to discourage investors in the sector, leading to lower production of crude oil and lower earnings for Nigeria despite the increased cost of crude.

He said, “Investors in the oil and gas sector continue to lament the challenges posed by insecurity, oil theft, unstable policies and inappropriate fiscal regimes.

“The downstream sector has continued to be weighed down by the pricing regimes and the regulatory environments which have continued to dim the growth prospects in the sector.”

Meanwhile OPEC stated that crude oil prices dipped in July, as against their costs in June, adding that crude in OPEC Reference Basket fell by $9.17 or 7.8 per cent month-on-month in July to average $108.55/barrel.

“Oil futures prices remained highly volatile in July, amid a sharp drop in liquidity. The ICE Brent front month declined $12.38 or 10.5 per cent in July to average $105.12/barrel and NYMEX WTI declined by $14.96 or 13.1 per cent to average $99.38/barrel,” the global oil cartel stated.

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