英文

Editorial:Retail investors fighting hedge funds 'for justice'

【明報專訊】The drama of an online army of retail investors battling hedge funds on Wall Street for the last few days has aroused hot discussions everywhere. In the era of financial globalisation, big funds call the shots, and there are endless tales of them making huge profits by short selling. Retail investors often end up as the losers as the entire set of rules of the game is always tilted in favour of the big investors. In the latest incident, the online army of retail investors has managed to amass a huge sum of capital to defeat the hedge funds by means of ''short squeezing''. Their subversion of the conventional order on Wall Street is a proof of the mightiness of civic empowerment in the social media era. The fund industry cannot practise ''heads I win, tails you lose'' and forbid retail investors to win money. However, it must be pointed out that there are a lot of subjective and objective conditions behind the victory of retail investors. Those who think that social media has already changed everything and the drama can be copied anywhere think so at their own peril. In the US, wealth is increasingly concentrated in a handful of people. The battle between retail investors and big funds this time carries a heavy tinge of a populist rising against the establishment. As the antagonism between the elites and the common people aggravates, there may be even more serious social crises ahead.

The investment saga that has caught worldwide attention started unexpectedly when GameStop (GME), an American digital game retailer, was named by a hedge fund as a short selling target because of GME's huge yearly deficit. With a history of 37 years, GME was once a mecca for US gamers. Seeing the imminent destruction of their collective memory by hedge funds, WallStreetBets, a large sub-forum on US online social media platform Reddit, called for the purchase of GME stocks. The appeal gained the support of many netizens and the share price of GME rocketed as a result, attracting even more retail investors to follow suit. At one time, GME's share price was around 18 times its price at the year's start. Instead of making immense profits from short selling GME, the hedge funds suffered disastrous losses due to short squeezing. They even had to borrow money to save themselves. After this major victory, the retail investors extended their battle line to other stocks named by hedge funds for short selling and even the silver market. In the eyes of supporters, this is an ''uprising'' that robs the rich to help the poor. In the eyes of large funds and financial institutions, it is an ''unrest'' that smashes the order of the markets.

The investment industry estimates that the hedge funds have suffered a total loss of US$20 billion. In the early trading hours of the US stock markets last night (February 1), the share price of GME fell back but the price of silver spiked 11%. The subversion of the power relation between ordinary people and the conventional elite by social media has been a long-standing topic discussed by many sides. It is not something previously unknown. Still, the making of a mickle from many a little by the online army of retail investors to counterattack the big funds is indeed unprecedented. It is hard to foresee the coming development of this ''uprising'' of retail investors. The only certain thing is that as the GME victory has hugely boosted the morale of the online army of retail investors, they will not retreat in the short term. There may be even more torrents in the investment markets in the coming weeks.

Although some describe this ''uprising'' as a continuation of the spirit of the Occupy Wall Street movement, it is not desirable to glorify the ''uprising'' blindly. The founder of WallStreetBets has pointed out that there is more and more hate speech on the forum and some members are obviously white supremacists. Whether the ''uprising'' of retail investors will get out of control and be spoiled and whether it will become an act of vengeful sabotage in the form of ''violence against violence'' in the investment sector are questions that need close attention.

明報社評 2021.02.02:網民散戶「替天行道」 華爾街精英遇新對手

網民散戶大戰對冲基金的戲碼,連日在華爾街上演,各方議論紛紛。金融全球化,基金大戶呼風喚雨,沽空大撈一票的故事多不勝數,輸家往往是散戶,整個遊戲規則,從來都是向大戶傾斜。今次散戶網軍結集巨資,「挾淡倉」大破對冲基金,顛覆華爾街秩序,見證了社交媒體時代庶民充權的威力,基金界不可能輸打贏要,不准散戶贏錢,然而必須指出的是,散戶這場勝利,背後有很多主客觀條件配合,以為社媒已經改變一切,任何地方都可照辦煮碗,隨時焦頭爛額。美國財富愈益集中在小撮人手中,這次散戶大戰基金,民粹反建制色彩甚濃,精英與大眾對立變本加厲,更多嚴重社會危機可能尚在後頭。

美國電子遊戲零售商GameStop(GME)因為年度虧蝕嚴重,遭對冲基金點名沽空,未料引起一場全球矚目的投資風雲。GME有37年歷史,曾是美國「打機迷」聖地,眼見對冲基金打算摧毁這個集體回憶,美國網上社交平台Reddit一個名為WallStreetBets的大型群組,呼籲買入GME股份,得到不少網民同意響應;GME股價飈升,吸引更多散戶追貨,股價一度較年初漲約17倍。對冲基金沽空大賺不成,反被挾淡倉,損失慘重,甚至要借錢救亡。散戶大捷之餘,更將戰線擴至其他遭基金點名沽空的股票以至白銀市場。支持者眼中,這是一場劫富濟民的「起義」;在一些基金大行眼中,這是一場破壞市場秩序的「動亂」。

投資界估算,對冲基金在這場散戶「起義」中,損失達到200億美元。昨晚美股開市早段,GME股價雖見回落,惟白銀價格卻暴漲11%。社交媒體顛覆庶民與傳統精英的權力關係,各界談之已久,並非什麼新鮮事,可是散戶網軍如此聚沙成塔,反過來狙擊基金大戶,確是前所未見。這場散戶「起義」,往後發展難以預料,唯一肯定是GME一役大捷,大振網軍散戶士氣,短期內不會收兵,未來數周投資市場還會出現更多波瀾。

有人形容這場「起義」,延續了佔領華爾街運動的精神,不過盲目美化這場「起義」亦非好事。WallStreetBets群組創辦人便指出,群組內的仇恨言論愈來愈多,部分成員明顯是白人至上主義者。這場散戶「起義」會否失控變質,變成投資界一場「以暴易暴」的報復破壞,需要密切留意。

■/ Glossary 生字 /

uprising /ˈʌpraɪzɪŋ/ :an act of resistance or rebellion; a revolt

vengeful /ˈvendʒfl/ :showing a desire to punish sb who has harmed you

sabotage /ˈsæbətɑːʒ/ :the act of doing deliberate damage to sth to prevent an enemy from using it

■英語社評聲檔:link.mingpao.com/53000.htm

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