As Meme Stock Mania Fizzles, Wall Street Sees ‘Big Reckoning’

The day-trading Reddit crowd turned the first quarter of 2021 into one of the wildest periods of stock market mania in modern history. Books -- plural -- will undoubtedly be dedicated to the topic in years to come.

But after these small-time speculators banded together to drive up dozens of obscure stocks by hundreds or even thousands of percent -- and in the process burned a few hedge-fund barons betting on declines -- the movement appears to be petering out. An index that tracks 37 of the most popular meme stocks -- 37 of the 50 that Robinhood Markets banned clients from trading during the height of the frenzy -- is essentially unchanged over the past two months after soaring nearly 150% in January.

Talk to Wall Street veterans and they’ll tell you that this flat-lining is the beginning of what will be an inexorable move downward in these stocks.

It’s not so much about the poor fundamentals of the companies. At least not in the short term. The day-trading zealots have shown a surprising ability to ignore those facts. It’s more that as the pandemic slowly winds down and the economy starts to open up, many of them will leave their homes and start going back into offices and out to restaurants and embarking on trips near and far. And as they do, they may stop obsessing about their Robinhood accounts.

Their collective sway on the meme-stock universe, in other words, will wane.

“People are going to be doing other things,” said Matt Maley, chief market strategist at Miller Tabak + Co. There will be a “big reckoning” at some point, he said. “There’s no question in my mind.”