Meme Stocks, Pandemic Relief, Bitcoin: 3 Things to Watch

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Investing.com– Stocks blew off some steam Thursday but most eyes were focused on Congress’ virtual hearing about retail trading, GameStop, and the little app that could, Robinhood. 

The theme of the hearing was a familiar one: Is Wall Street scamming the little guy? The testimony is unlikely to go far in solving the market structure issues that create the occasional trading frenzies like we saw earlier this year, however. 

Walmart Inc (NYSE:WMT) dragged down the indexes after disappointing earnings. The retailer said it was raising pay for  425,000 workers to an average over $15 an hour.

Also on Thursday, the White House pledged to review key supply chains affecting semiconductors, electric vehicle batteries and rare earth metals. And the focus on the energy market continued as oil-rich Texas worked frantically to get power restored to freezing residents.

Not much is on the calendar for Friday in terms of government economic data or earnings. Here are three things that could affect markets tomorrow:

1. Stonks and the retail investor

GameStop Corp (NYSE:GME) fell about 11% in Thursday trading as lawmakers grilled hedge fund investors and the CEO of Robinhood about the recent short squeeze that resulted in a frenzy of retail trading earlier this year. While GameStop stood in as the poster child for the episode, several other so-called meme stocks also got caught up in it, including AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc (NYSE:AMC) and BlackBerry Ltd (NYSE:BB). 

It’s not clear what will become of the testimony in the House. The hearing was focused on a classic Wall Street business model in which a market maker pays a broker to handle their buy and sell orders. Short selling and its role in the markets — a perennially controversial topic– was also a topic. 

2. Stimulus could come to a vote soon

Speaking of the House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters on  Thursday that the $1.9 trillion Covid relief package could come to a vote next week. Congress wants to get something to President Joe Biden by the end of the month.

Economic relief is considered essential to spurring growth after a year of shut downs, disruptions and job losses. Thursdays unexpectedly large number for initial jobless claims could encourage lawmakers to act.

3. Crypto rally’s future

Bitcoin tumbled below $52,000 but continues to be in focus after a remarkable run up in the cryptocurrency. It gained 300% for 2020 and has since climbed nearly 80% more, a rally encouraged by splashy investments from Tesla Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA) (which bought $1.5 billion of bitcoin) and MicroStrategy Incorporated (NASDAQ:MSTR) (which plans to buy $900 million more after previous investments.

People may remember the 2017 bitcoin bubble, which resulted in an 80% fall the following year. But many believe this time is different, and that more companies will invest in bitcoin as a hedge against inflation.