Due to the Federal Reserve's zero interest rate policy for the bulk of the past decade, many liked to say that stocks were the only game in town. Low-interest rates pushed down bond yields which forced investors farther out on the spectrum in search of returns.
Now, "stocks are the only game in town" has become true as all types of sports, events, and activities have been shut down. This in combination with the furious rebound in the stock market over the past two months, has brought an entirely new army of active traders to the financial markets. Other contributors have been people working from home, schools moving online, zero-commission trading, and fractional shares which have opened up the market even more.
The figurehead of this movement has been Barstool Sports' founder, Dave Portnoy. He started Barstool Sports in 2003, covering sports in an irreverent way and has built up a massive audience over multiple platforms. Currently, three of the top 20 podcasts are by BarStool. Numerous Barstool personalities have millions of followers. Portnoy was able to sell 36% of his company to Penn Gaming
As sports were shutdown, Portnoy nimbly pivoted by starting to daytrade and Livestream himself on Twitter. Riding this wave, he's made money on recovery plays like Boeing
His personality, connection with his audience, and intrepidness when it came to generating controversy helped build Barstool into a behemoth. And, he's doing the same thing in his brief tenure as a daytrader. In a sense, he's playing a wrestling "heel" who says things to generate a reaction from the audience.
His latest schtick has been to attack Warren Buffett as "washed up" especially due to Buffett's decision to dump the airlines. Portnoy has been bullish, and data from Robinhood show that retail traders have been piling into the stock. Surprisingly, so far, the "dumb" money has been right as airlines are up nearly 50% since Buffett dumped his stake in the sector at a loss.
Sign of a Top
Many wizened market participants are saying that a sports personality mocking Warren Buffett is a signal that the top has arrived. And, it does have some parallels to the dotcom bubble, when Buffett was one of the few bearish voices. Many dismissed Buffett as being past his prime and unable to grasp the transformative effects of the Internet. Of course, Buffet was right, and the Nasdaq crashed 80% from these lofty, levels.
The past week has been brutal for the retail traders who are chasing returns and betting on stocks that would thrive under the economy normalizing like airlines, cruises, or car rental stocks. Trader positioning data shows that they have been buying the lowest-priced stocks in the market which were the most punished this week.