Student-investors take advantage of stock market snafu

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An informative page of the GameStop (GME) stock. The stock skyrocketed in value recently and some Uconn students took advantage of the situation. Photo by Markus Spiske via Pexels.

A few students at the University of Connecticut made profits in the stock market when they decided to get involved with GameStop and AMC Theatres, two recent targets of a popular reddit stock trading forum. 

It began over this past week, when the recent stock market frenzy spurred by the maneuvers of subreddit r/WallStreetBets put an incredible kink in the plans of hedge fund managers, vaulting the once-cult investment forum to the forefront of media attention nearly overnight. 

Jeffrey Annello, a UConn adjunct finance professor and adviser to the finance department’s Student Managed Fund, told UConn Today the debacle was a hot topic amongst the fund’s students. 

“I’m sure at least some of the students were thinking, ‘This could be me,’” Annello said.  

Using tips from friends or the internet forum to snatch up shares of the soaring “meme” stocks, like GameStop (GME), AMC Theatres (AMC), Blackberry and even crypto Dogecoin, UConn’s students have been buying in on the action.

Nils Jonsson, a graduate student in the material science and engineering program, said a tip from his friend, and his connections to the subreddit, went into his decision to try and make some fast money. 

Jonsson said when he first learned about r/WallStreetBets, there were around 400,000 members. (It currently sits at 8.5 million.) Back when he first entered the subreddit, there was heavy talk about purchasing stocks in Tesla and Microsoft.  

“I didn’t act on a lot of what was on the forum but I did end up investing in Tesla and making some money off of that,” said Jonsson. 

Jonsson said it wasn’t until a couple years later that he heard about the prospect of buying stock in GameStop.  

“As for GME, I heard about it from a friend of mine pointing out that there was a massive amount of WSB speculation going on and we both decided to purchase [about 30 shares] as a see-what-happens bet,” Jonsson said. 

But after all was said and done, Jonsson more than doubled his investment. And although he says their original goal as speculators (someone who invests in stocks) was to make money, Jonsson says he also gets the satisfaction of getting at the Wall Street giants. 

“I’d say it’s first and foremost opportunity,” says Jonsson. “But like I said, we have shares that neither of us intend to sell regardless of where the stock goes. The intention of that money is indeed to put a small middle finger up to the hedge funds, but also just to keep a memento if you will.” 

Tri-thien Vu, a sixth-semester economics major at UConn, said he started trading stocks during the beginning of quarantine in March 2020. With some extra cash at his disposal, Vu says he decided to start investing and trying to understand how the stock market worked. 

“From the months of March to December I was actually down from my initial investment, and after a lucky stock I had doubled my account value,” said Vu. “That’s when I heard about GameStop.” 

Vu said he hasn’t really made any money off his investments, but has profited in another way. For him, trading has been about sticking it to the hedge fund managers. 

“Through the subreddit there are tons of stories of people being able to pay off bills that have been piling up since the beginning of COVID, and others paying off medical bills for their families,” said Vu. “These people are the ones that matter to me right now so I could really care less if the managers can’t maintain their yachts.” 

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