Fed’s Neel Kashkari is ‘not fazed’ by GameStop stock trading frenzy
Minneapolis Fed President Neel Kashkari said during a virtual town hall event on Monday that he is “not fazed by the fact that there’s speculation going on in the stock market” amid recent volatility fueled by GameStop and other heavily-shorted stocks.
GameStop was targeted by a speculative investing discussion forum on Reddit known as WallStreetBets. Followers banded together to buy up the struggling video game retailer’s call options, causing its shares to soar to unprecedented levels and hurting market short-sellers. The group then proceeded to target other heavily-shorted stocks, including AMC Entertainment Holdings, BlackBerry Limited, Koss Corp., Express Inc., Naked Brands Group and Nokia Corp.
“GameStop has gotten a lot of attention,” Kashkari said. “If one group of speculators wants to have a battle of wills with another group of speculators over an individual stock, God bless them.”
The former Goldman Sachs banker and 2014 GOP California gubernatorial nominee continued: “That’s for them to do, and if they make money, fine. And if they lose money, that’s on them,” Kashkari added. “I’m not at all thinking about modifying my views on monetary policy because of speculators in these individual stocks.”
Kashkari’s comments come after Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell declined to comment on the activity surrounding GameStop during a Jan. 27 press briefing.
“I don’t want to comment on a particular company or day’s market activity or things like that. It’s just not something really that I would typically comment on,” he told reporters.
Meanwhile, San Francisco Fed President Mary Daly argued during a virtual event on Jan. 29 that tightening up monetary policy would potentially slow the economic recovery “simply to ensure that some people who already have stock market wealth don’t get more.”
GameStop shares fell more than 31% during Monday’s trading session after the stock’s growth has exploded over the past week, surging 1,642% from Jan. 12 through Jan. 27 as short-sellers scrambled to close their losing bets.
Going forward, Kashkari says he’s more focused on doing more to help the overall economy.
The Federal Reserve has signaled it will hold interest rates near zero at least through 2023 and continue to buy at least $120 billion in treasuries and mortgage-backed securities per month until “substantial further progress” has been made on employment and inflation.
Kashkari said that he is “not concerned” about the government’s borrowing during the pandemic, comparing the move to “wartime spending.”
“We have the capacity to do what we need to do,” he said.
According to Kashkari, the key is for the Federal Reserve is to “keep our foot on the monetary policy gas until we really have achieved maximum employment.”
The former Treasury official added, “I think it’s going to be important for Congress to continue to be aggressive supporting people who have been laid off, supporting small businesses until we really get the pandemic behind us and restore the economy.”