Friday File: Some Buys Beyond the Games

A couple new Real Money Portfolio positions, plus Part One of the Annual Review (and, yes, some GameStop comments)

By Travis Johnson, Stock Gumshoe, January 29, 2021

With each passing day this week, I became more and more interested in “boring” stocks — there is ALWAYS a temptation to chase hot ideas, and I’m certainly not immune to speculation, but the GameStop (GME) craziness is too much. Plenty of folks have asked me about it, so I’ll just blather on about that for a moment – if you’re already sick of the story or don’t care, just skip ahead to the first bold part where I’ll get to talking about what I’m actually doing about my money.

For those who are asking, I’ll just be clear: No, there’s no way on earth I’d buy GameStop (GME) above $20. I’d hesitate to pay $10. It remains one of the most doomed retail companies I’m aware of… there’s some potential for a rescue, I guess, thanks to Ryan Cohen, particularly if they sell a lot of stock to raise capital at these ludicrous prices, but I don’t see any real likelihood of the company growing or returning to relevance.

But, equally, there’s no way on earth I’d short the stock. I would consider buying puts on these kinds of wildly overpriced bubble stocks, sure, but every professional investor in the world is also convinced that GameStop is going to fall wildly in price from here at some point and that some rational assessment of valuations will return, so the cost of put options is extraordinarily high and makes the potential returns too small to be worth chasing. Betting on the obvious means you either have to be a great and nimble trader (I’m not), or you have to risk a lot to make a little.

If you don’t know what’s been going on this week, or don’t quite get the mechanics of it, here’s the basic situation…

Melvin Capital is the headliner here, because it’s a pretty big hedge fund and was the first to be blown up by the squeeze. Melvin was short GameStop, which meant they had borrowed GME shares and sold them, pocketing that cash into their fund, with the intention of buying those GME shares back at some point in the future at a lower price so they could return those borrowed shares (lots of others were short, too, GME had among the highest short ratios because it has been a slowly dying business for years — the “short ratio” is the ...

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