Bed Bath & Beyond jumps 68% to lead last gasp rally in meme stocks; AMC gains 21%

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A "Store Closing" banner on a Bed Bath & Beyond store in Farmingdale, New York, on Friday, Jan. 6, 2023.
Johnny Milano | Bloomberg | Getty Images

A group of highly speculative stocks rallied double digits on Wednesday as retail investors pushed meme names up again in the new year after a dismal 2022.

Bed Bath & Beyond skyrocketed a whopping 68.6% to trigger the trend Wednesday. Shares of GameStop, the original star of 2021's meme stock mania, climbed more than 7% , while AMC Entertainment soared over 21%.

Meme stocks rallying one more time

Stock Short interest % float Wed. Gain % off 52W high
Bed Bath & Beyond (BBBY)48.9%68%-88%
AMC (AMC)21%21%-77%
GameStop (GME)21%7%-62%

Source: FactSet

The rally in Bed Bath & Beyond was initially triggered by news that it would lay off more employees in an attempt to reduce costs and stay in business.

The home goods retailer told employees that it is eliminating the chief transformation officer role, which is held by Anu Gupta, on the same day it reported disappointing fiscal third-quarter results. Bed Bath & Beyond is approaching a potential bankruptcy, as its sales decline and losses grow. 

What Bed Bath and Beyond's bankruptcy warning could mean for meme stocks
What Bed Bath and Beyond's bankruptcy warning could mean for meme stocks

"We don't love the strength in nonsense stocks like AMC, CVNA, GME, BBBY, PRTY, etc.," said Adam Crisafulli, founder of Vital Knowledge. "This just means people are blindly chasing."

During early 2021, a band of retail traders joined forces on social media to bid up a slew of heavily shorted stocks, creating massive short squeezes that inflicted high pain on short sellers. These meme stocks experienced big pullbacks last year when risk sentiment shifted amid aggressive rate hikes. GameStop fell 50% in 2022, while AMC tumbled 75% and Bed Bath & Beyond plunged 82%.

While the short interest in these names has come down from its peak after the jaw-dropping episode, it still remains much higher than average.

About 48% of Bed Bath & Beyond's float shares are sold short, compared with an average of 5% short interest in a typical U.S. stock, according to S3 Partners. For GameStop, the short interest stands at 21%, down from more than 100% at the height of the meme stock mania in 2021, according to FactSet. AMC has also 21% of shares sold short.

A short squeeze happens when a stock jumps sharply higher, it forces short sellers to buy back shares in order to limit their losses. The short covering tends to fuel the stock's rally further.