Robinhood Blocks Buying in GameStop, AMC, and Other Stocks. Other Brokers Also Add Guardrails.
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Robinhood Blocks Buying in GameStop, AMC, and Other Stocks. Other Brokers Also Add Guardrails.

By AVI SALZMAN
Fri, Jan 29, 2021 5:07amGrey Clock 3 min

Investing app Robinhood blocked access to GameStop and other highflying names on Thursday as trading surged among retail users.

The move comes after GameStop (GME) stock has shot higher over the past week, inspiring a short squeeze. The action — driven by retail traders often using options — has spread to other names like BlackBerry (BB), AMC Entertainment Holdings (AMC), and Bed Bath & Beyond (BBBY). Several of those stocks were falling in premarket trading after enormous run-ups in the past few days.

Users began reporting that they couldn’t trade GameStop and other stocks on Thursday. They got a message that “This stock is not supported on Robinhood.”

In a statement on Thursday, Robinhood detailed which stocks now had restrictions. “In light of recent volatility, we are restricting transactions for certain securities to position closing only,” the company said. These include AMC Entertainment, BlackBerry, Bed Bath & Beyond, Express (EXPR), GameStop, Koss (Koss), Naked Brand Group (NAKD), and Nokia (NOK).

“We also raised margin requirements for certain securities,” Robinhood said. The trading platform is raising margin requirements for investors in GameStop and AMC to 100%, Robinhood told Barron’s on Wednesday.

On Thursday morning, Robinhood was also reporting outages.

Other brokers have instituted similar restrictions. Interactive Brokers (IBKR) on Wednesday put AMC, BlackBerry, Express, GameStop, and Koss option trading into liquidation “due to the extraordinary volatility in the markets,” the company said.

“In addition, long stock positions will require 100% margin and short stock positions will require 300% margin until further notice,” the company said. “We do not believe this situation will subside until the exchanges and regulators halt or put certain symbols into liquidation only. We will continue to monitor market conditions and may add or remove symbols as may be warranted.”

TD Ameritrade (AMTD) also placed restrictions on some transactions in GameStop and other securities, the broker said on Wednesday. A spokeswoman didn’t specify exactly what the company was doing but said it could include “actions like increasing margin requirements, or limiting certain types of transactions, like short sales and those that may involve unlimited risk. It is not uncommon for us to make such decisions, which we consider on an individual basis, in the interest of mitigating risk.”

“We have been adjusting our requirements for several days as we continued to see trends indicating unusual volume in an unprecedented market environment, which appear to be divorced from traditional market fundamentals,” the company said. “We have made what we believe to be prudent and appropriate decisions to place some limits on certain transactions for certain securities.”

And fast-growing privately held broker Webull said it was limiting some activities, too.

“Webull has been very successful in limiting our intraday risk during the course of these events by not allowing any short positions in these volatile names since as early as Friday of last week,” CEO Anthony Denier told Barron’s. “Trading has been open for these stocks and uninterrupted amidst this volatility and the only new restrictions we have placed is not allowing market orders opening of new multi-leg option strategy positions.”

Robinhood has grown faster than the rest of the industry over the past year, attracting younger investors. Last year, it said it had more than 13 million account-holders, adding 3 million from January until May. The privately held broker was sued last month by a Massachusetts regulator on allegations that it encourages risky investing among its clientele. The company denied those allegations and said it does not recommend stocks.

On Wednesday night, Robinhood sent a notice to users directing them to educational products in light of the recent volatility.

One trader who has made money in the GameStop trade through his Webull account was frustrated by the new limits.

“It’s one thing if I had a pattern of misconduct, or a lot of violations. It’s another thing for you to tell me that you can’t trade this stock because we don’t like what’s happening to it,” Brandon Luczek, a 28-year-old who lives in Virginia, told Barron’s on Wednesday night. “That’s not for you to decide. I have my own personal risk tolerance.”

Others on reddit’s wallstreetbets forum lashed out at Robinhood. “How in the hell is this legal? They are tanking our legitimately bought and held stocks/options by arbitrarily restricting trading,” one wrote.

 



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Boost for World Economy as U.S., Eurozone Accelerate in Tandem

Surveys point to a fresh acceleration in the U.S., even as growth in the eurozone strengthens

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Global economic growth is becoming more broad based, with surveys indicating that business activity in both the U.S. and the eurozone gained momentum in May.

The eurozone economy contracted in the second half of 2023 following a surge in energy and food prices triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and the subsequent rise in interest rates intended to tame that inflation.

By contrast, the U.S. economy expanded strongly over the same period, opening up an unusually wide growth gap with the eurozone. That gap narrowed as the eurozone returned to growth in the first three months of the year, while the U.S. slowed.

However, surveys released Thursday point to a fresh acceleration in the U.S., even as growth in the eurozone strengthened. That bodes well for a global economy that relied heavily on the U.S. for its dynamism in 2023.

The S&P Global Flash U.S. Composite PMI —which gauges activity in the manufacturing and services sectors—rose to 54.4 in May from 51.3 in April, marking a 25-month high and the first time since the beginning of the year that the index hasn’t slowed. A level over 50 indicates expansion in private-sector activity.

“The data put the U.S. economy back on course for another solid gross domestic product gain in the second quarter,” said Chris Williamson, chief business economist at S&P Global Market Intelligence.

Eurozone business activity in turn increased for the third straight month in May, and at the fastest pace in a year, the surveys suggest. The currency area’s joint composite PMI rose to 52.3 from 51.7.

The uptick was led by powerhouse economy Germany, where continued strength in services and improvement in industry drove activity to its highest level in a year. That helped the manufacturing sector in the bloc as a whole grow closer to recovery, reaching a 15-month peak.

By contrast, surveys of purchasing managers pointed to a slowdown in the U.K. economy following a stronger-than-expected start to the year that saw it outpace the U.S. The survey was released a day after Prime Minister Rishi Sunak called a surprise election for early July, banking on signs of an improved economic outlook to turn around a large deficit in the opinion polls.

Similar surveys pointed to a further acceleration in India’s rapidly-expanding economy, and to a rebound in Japan, where the economy contracted in the first three months of the year. In Australia, the surveys pointed to a slight slowdown in growth during May.

Businesses reported that they were raising their prices at the slowest pace since November, which should reassure the European Central Bank. However, the eurozone continued to add jobs in May, suggesting that wages might not cool as rapidly as the ECB had hoped.

The ECB released figures Thursday that showed wages negotiated by labor unions in the eurozone were 4.7% higher in the first quarter than a year earlier, a faster increase than the 4.5% recorded in the final three months of 2023

The ECB has signalled it will lower its key interest rate in early June, while the Fed is waiting for evidence that a slowdown in inflation will resume after setbacks this year.

Nevertheless, eurozone businesses and households shouldn’t bank on successive cuts to borrowing costs, ECB Vice President Luis de Guindos said. “There is a huge degree of uncertainty,” he said. “We have made no decisions on the number of interest rate cuts or on their size,” he said in an interview published Thursday. “We will see how economic data evolve.”

Continued resilience in the eurozone economy would likely make the ECB more cautious about lowering borrowing costs after its first move, economist Franziska Palmas at Capital Economics wrote in a note. “If the economy continues to hold up well, cuts further ahead may be slower than we had anticipated,” she said.

– Edward Frankl contributed to this story.

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35 North Street Windsor

Just 55 minutes from Sydney, make this your creative getaway located in the majestic Hawkesbury region.

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