Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Stay on top of the latest market trends

Subscribe to Axios Markets for the latest market trends and economic insights. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sports news worthy of your time

Binge on the stats and stories that drive the sports world with Axios Sports. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tech news worthy of your time

Get our smart take on technology from the Valley and D.C. with Axios Login. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Get the inside stories

Get an insider's guide to the new White House with Axios Sneak Peek. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Denver news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Des Moines news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Twin Cities news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Tampa Bay news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Charlotte news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

A half-forgotten and unprofitable videogame retailer is, bizarrely and incredibly, on the lips of the nation. That's because the GameStop story touches on economic and cultural forces that affect everyone, whether they own a single share of stock or not.

Why it matters: In most Wall Street fights, the broader public doesn't have a rooting interest. This one — where a group of small traders won a multi-billion-dollar bet against giant hedge funds by buying stock in GameStop — is different.

The appeal of fables: The core GameStop story is a simple morality tale. A scrappy band of Wall Street outsiders, armed with little more than moxie and their stimulus checks, have not only made millions for themselves, but have also humbled big-name fund managers who had dared to bet against a blameless retailer.

  • Schadenfreude: Gabe Plotkin is a hedge-fund gazillionaire who just spent $44 million buying two adjoining properties in Miami Beach. He's also famous for short-selling — for betting that companies will fail. If he and his ilk lose money, many people would feel happy.
  • Lol nothing matters: The Reddit slogan "putting the FU in fundamentals" is perfectly calibrated to enrage investors who purport to care about things like valuation and price discovery. There's nothing worse than losing a game to people who aren't even taking it seriously.

Shamelessness: The conspiracy to bid up GameShop stock took place in broad daylight, enraging old-time traders with a tendency to go on unhinged Twitter rants about "market manipulation". (They never complained when Jim Cramer was doing it.)

  • Eat my shorts: There's a highly complex financial system underlying the GameStop rally, involving discount brokerages, payment for order flow, short sales, margin calls, delta hedging of call options, and much else. Lots of people bear longstanding grudges against some or all of that system, and are taking this opportunity to shout loudly about how the GameStop story proves that they're right about... something. (Spoiler alert: 99% of the time, it doesn't.)

The attention economy: GameStop stock has risen in direct proportion to the number of people paying attention to it. It went viral in much the same way that a white-and-gold dress does.

  • The internet has become reality: The GameStop story was born on Reddit, cultured on YouTube, popularized on TikTok and Twitter. Like any internet joke, the longer it lasts, the funnier it becomes — and the more attractive it becomes to memelords like Elon Musk.
  • Media wars: If you want to know what's really going on with GameStop, the place you need to be is Reddit's wallstreetbets channel, not CNBC. Both are cacophonous and confusing, and both can consume hours of traders' attention. On some level, they are competitors — and for now Reddit is winning the relevance wars.

The Trump vacuum: Now that Donald Trump is no longer taking up a permanent position in news consumers' brains, other parts of the news cycle expand to fill the space available. Quite literally: CNBC expanded its programming by an extra hour Wednesday, thanks to all the demand for GameStop-related content.

The bottom line: Whatever your interests, there's something in this story to grab your attention. Grab the popcorn, it's not over yet.

Go deeper

Robinhood has a stacked policy team — and it's going to need it

Photo Illustration: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The stock-trading app Robinhood has an arsenal of political power brokers it can deploy on its behalf as it faces congressional inquiries over its role in an internet-fueled market manipulation frenzy.

Why it matters: The populist, discount trading platform is going to need that firepower because its decision to suspend trading of stock in GameStop and a number of other companies on Thursday has sparked criticism and promised inquiries from both sides of the aisle.

Stock market has worst week since October amid Reddit frenzy

Photo: Tiffany Hagler-Geard/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Wall Street had its worst week since October as day traders bid up stocks for GameStop, AMC and others that gained popularity on Reddit.

Details: The S&P 500 fell more than 1.9% on Friday. All of the major averages fell more than 3% this week.

Felix Salmon, author of Capital
Jan 29, 2021 - Economy & Business

SEC says it will "closely review" restrictions on Reddit-fueled stocks

Photo: Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

The Securities and Exchange Commission on Friday warned Robinhood and other brokerages that it will "closely review" actions they took on Thursday that prevented investors from buying stock in GameStop and other popular Reddit-fueled stocks.

Why it matters: The move from Robinhood generated anger across the political spectrum and among small investors who wanted to participate in one of the most exciting stock-market trades of the moment.