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Shoppers line up outside GameStop at the Mall of Louisiana on Black Friday, November 27, 2020, in Baton Rouge, La.

Aaron Moore may have lost $500 after investing in GameStop stock on a whim, but it was a gamble worth taking, the LaPlace resident said. 

"It's been great to see how many people can come together over one thing, given the world that we're still in. It's a lot more than just the money," Moore said recently. "I'm going to hold on to it for now; got diamond hands."

That was on a Monday and by Tuesday afternoon he sold his shares at a loss as the stock price tumbled. 

Moore already had a Robinhood trading account before a frenzy was prompted by a Reddit.com internet group known as WallStreetBets, which advocated retail investors pump up beaten-down GameStop stock against hedge fund short sellers that were betting on the stock value dropping. The online group sought to do a "short squeeze," which prompted hedge funds to lose billions as small investors pushed the stock price to hundreds of dollars per share.

Shares rocketed 1,600% in just three weeks before returning closer to Earth. 

Two major hedge funds that had shorted GameStop stock, Citron Research and Melvin Capital, sold their positions, taking significant losses in late January.

Local stock traders who discussed their recent activities in the market said they were casual investors with a few stocks in their portfolio but didn't have a very active trading history.

Moore, who works in the petrochemical industry as a contractor, has seen demand for his services dry up because of maintenance project postponements stemming from the coronavirus pandemic. But his employer guarantees him full-time work even if the contracts are thin. Still, he's concerned about the future of the energy industry in Louisiana and looked forward to making a little money on the side. 

"We're not just crazy apes," Moore said, referencing a popular internet meme. "There's actual due diligence. This has ignited a new interest; I am willing to learn way more about finance."

He said he was disappointed after Robinhood reacted by initially restricting users from buying new GameStop shares. 

Baton Rouge resident Matthew Sagrera bought about 60 shares of GameStop stock a few weeks ago. Sagrera works in the financial services industry and thought it was a good decision that also supported a just cause. 

"It was definitely more of a business decision at first," Sagrera said. "But then I was like, let's stick it to these guys who benefited from the financial collapse in 2008. Maybe the little guys could make some money this time instead of getting cut out."

He also bought a few other stocks Redditors planned to short squeeze as well, such as Blackberry and Nokia, dubbed meme stocks. 

"I think that it's an important time for retail investment. People have more power than they realized," he said. "I plan on holding out as long as I can."

For Zach Miller, buying GameStop stock was a philosophical decision to support the movement. 

Miller lives in Baton Rouge and works in the legal services industry, his temporary position ending during the middle of the pandemic, but he was able to find a full-time job since then. 

Miller had noticed the Reddit threads about GameStop when the stock price was a few hundred dollars, but he ultimately bought one share to participate in a movement to promote free markets. 

"We were OK potentially losing a few hundred bucks to make our own statement about GME," Miller said. 

He already had a Robinhood account from stocks bought and sold years ago but had since refocused on long-term financial planning, such as retirement accounts rather than buying individual company shares. 

"I didn't invest as a financial decision," Miller said. "It was unfair treatment of retail investors for (Robinhood) to limit whether they could purchase a stock. It wasn't really reflecting the principles that we believe in like the free market. We bought on mainly philosophical reasons."

Within a week, his sole share was sold after setting a price trigger on the trading application. 


Email Kristen Mosbrucker at kmosbrucker@theadvocate.com.