So much for diamond hands.
Ryan Cohen, meme stock cheerleader extraordinaire, just did something that no self-respecting Reddit trader would do: He sold his entire stake in Bed Bath & Beyond.
The decision to sell may have been a smart one. Cohen first bought
Bed Bath & Beyond
stock at $15.34 a share, only to watch the stock tumble below $5. Losing about two-thirds of your money on a trade is never great, even when you are a billionaire.
Then Bed Bath & Beyond went parabolic. The stock surged more than 400% from June 26 through Aug. 17, and Cohen did what any smart investor would do—he sold everything. That turned what could have been a sizable loss into a sizable gain of about $60 million.
The decision makes all kinds of sense, particularly with the stock down more than 40% on Friday. Wells Fargo analyst Zachary Fadem noted Thursday that Bed Bath shares had spiked even as the company likely was seeing more weakness during its second quarter as foot traffic in its stores dropped. Bed Bath & Beyond even had to release a statement saying that it was taking steps to strengthen its balance sheet as the amount of cash it has on hand became alarmingly low.
“[We] believe the writing is on the wall that BBBY shares have again decoupled from economic reality,” Fadem wrote.
Turning the company around has likely proven tougher than Cohen thought when he first bought his stake. UBS analyst Michael Lasser, who has a Sell rating on the stock, noted that the current retail environment isn’t going to help Bed Bath & Beyond as it tries to turn its business around.
“The reads from the retailers who reported this week is that the consumer spending environment has become more volatile in recent weeks,” he wrote. “Plus, the categories that experienced sharp spikes in demand in the last couple of years like grills, small appliances, and others have sharply receded. These conditions won’t make it easier for Bed Bath to effectuate a turnaround.“
All this is perfectly rational, but by selling Cohen broke the cardinal rule of meme trading—you never sell. These so-called diamond hands are supposed to be able to handle all the pressure, no matter the amount of volatility. Cohen didn’t, though, and that has to raise the prospects that he might at some point decide that it’s prudent to take profits in his much more successful trade—
(GME). GameStop stock, down 8.2% at $34.87 in premarket trading Friday, is falling but remains in the range between $25 and $50 it has settled into this year. The remaining diamond hands, though, will surely be tested if it breaks below $25.
In a market this volatile, however, does it even make sense to buy and hold forever, especially in companies that hardly meet the definition of high quality? If Cohen is anything to go by, diamond hands may soon be a thing of the past.
Corrections & Amplifications:
Ryan Cohen made a profit of around $60 million on his sale of Bed Bath & Beyond stock. An earlier version of this article misstated that he made $178 million.
Write to Ben Levisohn at Ben.Levisohn@barrons.com