Market Extra: GameStop’s earnings whiff — but retail traders faithful even as ‘Roaring Kitty’ points to $2 million paper loss

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After an initial burst higher, investors in Wall Street’s most popular meme stock on Tuesday got slapped with a dose of reality.

GameStop GME, -6.55% fell short of analysts’ estimates on profit and earnings per share, but while Wall Street pros were more than prepared for it to whiff, GameStop fanatics on social media appeared ready to celebrate whatever the brick-and-mortar company delivered, aiming to turn the fourth-quarter earnings call into the financial equivalent of a virtual Coachella.

The interest in GameStop comes after a frenetic start to 2021, fueled by individual investors who bought in to the belief that the recent hire of Chewy Inc. CHWY, -1.39% co-founder Ryan Cohen would lead to a major overhaul of the company’s business model.

The company on Tuesday said it “strengthened” its balance sheet and ended the year with $ 635 million in cash, “laying the foundation for transformation.”

And while changes may come — GameStop execs also named new operating chief, former Inc. AMZN, +0.86% executive Jenna Owens, as a part of a broader turnaround effort — they may not come fast enough to justify its $ 12.6 billion market value, some Wall Street analysts say.

Bullishness around the stock hit an apex in late January, with GameStop’s shares surging 930% in the year to date at that point, which led to losses among hedge funds and other investors who placed ill-timed bets that shares would lose value. The stock has since cooled its rise but is still up 865% on the year, according to FactSet data, as of Tuesday’s close.

Almost a half hour before GameStop’s quarterly call even started on Tuesday afternoon, the Texas-based videogame retailer was being overwhelmed by the sheer breadth of interest, with would-be attendees finding themselves locked out of the event due to the high volume of call-ins.

That reality filled Reddit users with glee, with many taking delight in watching one CNBC anchor admit on live television that she couldn’t dial in.

“The anchor said she’s never not been able to get into an earnings call,” posted one user on r/WallStreetBets. “Lmao.”

However, it didn’t take long for that celebratory atmosphere, which initially saw GameStop’s stock soar 11% in after-hours trade, to give way to a whiplash lower, as off-hour trading in the company indicated a double-digit loss come Wednesday. That drop fueled speculation that the retail traders’ favorite enemy, short-selling hedge funds, were at work.

“I think hedgies were holding on the shorted shares to use after the earnings report to give the impression that people were panic selling,” speculated another poster. “I think that’s why the price has been so consistent for the last week-ish and why the volume has been so low. They were waiting for the right moment to act.”

Indeed, the mood was dark as the earnings call drew to a close. That’s until the patron saint of GameStop hodlers, Keith Gill, aka Roaring Kitty, aka DeepF@#$ ingValue, issued his first Reddit missive in more than two weeks — a screenshot of what appeared to be his trading account revealing that while he had lost almost $ 2 million on GameStop on Tuesday alone, that the account is up almost $ 24 million on the year.

The tweet was tantamount to a battle cry for the faithful to hold the line, despite the drop.

“He knows how to time these posts,” praised one of Gill’s followers.

“No joke he probably saved everyone 20 dollars/share on this post alone,” replied another.

But even the Roaring Kitty would have to admit that it was an ugly one for everyone’s favorite meme stock, at the end of the day.

At last check Tuesday, GameStop shares were down over 15%, with some 4 million shares changing hands in after-hours action.