Virtu Financial CEO says meme stock frenzy not solely driven by ‘a band of retail traders’

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The frenzied activity involving so-called meme stocks is being driven by more than just retail investors, the CEO of market maker Virtu Financial told CNBC on Wednesday.

“There’s a lot of institutions, professional traders, speculators, whatever you want to call them, engaged in this in both the cash equities market and the options market,” Virtu’s Doug Cifu said on “Power Lunch.” “This is not solely a band of retail traders trading these stocks,” he added.

Cifu’s comments come as the spotlight has returned to meme stocks that are popular on online forums such as Reddit. While the saga began in January, with GameStop then serving as the most prominent example, retail traders have broadened their focus to other securities.

AMC Entertainment has lately been a favorite on Reddit boards and, very recently, Clover Health and Clean Energy Fuels have attracted attention.

Clover Health entered Wednesday’s session up more than 140% so far this week alone. However, despite an initial pop to start the trading day, Clover Health closed down 23.6%.

Clean Energy Fuels soared more than 30% Wednesday.

Reddit traders have looked for stocks with sizable short positions, buying shares and call options in an attempt to push up the price.

“They’re going for anything. … You have to try to figure out which one is next,” CNBC’s Jim Cramer said earlier Wednesday, while likening the meme-stock craze to gambling, not just investing.

Cifu also co-founded Virtu in 2008, and the New York-based financial firm has become one of the world’s largest market makers, which play a crucial role in executing stock trades.

“We have two sides to our business. We have a retail business and an institutional business. It should not be lost on people: This is not solely a retail phenomena,” Cifu said, referring to the meme stocks.

“We want to make sure that there’s appropriate suitable, people actually know what they’re doing and they get full transparency,” he added. “But otherwise, that’s what markets are here for, and they’re functioning quite well.”

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