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Fed: High asset prices 'might have been affected' by Robinhood, WallStreetBets

Brian Cheung
·Reporter
·2 min read
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The Federal Reserve discussed the impact of Robinhood and WallStreetBets on GameStop (GME) stock and the equity markets at large in its Jan. 26 and 27 policy-setting meeting, according to minutes released Wednesday.

“Regarding asset valuations, some participants commented that equity valuations had risen further, that initial public offering activity was elevated, or that valuations might have been affected by retail investors trading through electronic platforms,” read the Federal Open Market Committee minutes.

The notes did not elaborate on what “retail investors” or “electronic platforms” were discussed, but the news during both days were dominated by the run-up in shares of GameStop and other “meme stocks” like AMC (AMC) and Koss Corporation (KOSS).

In his press conference the afternoon of Jan. 27, Fed Chairman Jerome Powell declined to answer a question about whether or not the meteoric run-up in those stocks presented financial stability risks.

“I don't want to comment on a particular company or day's market activity or things like that,” Powell said.

But the minutes suggest that behind closed doors, Fed officials did discuss the topic. However, the minutes do not detail if the policymakers had recommendations on how to respond to the matter, if at all.

The Fed has “macroprudential tools” designed to address risks that may be building up in the financial system, such as asset bubbles. But it is not a securities regulator and does not have jurisdiction over the interaction between brokerages, high-frequency trading firms, or hedge funds.

Atlanta Fed President Raphael Bostic told Yahoo Finance on Feb. 4 that he would let the Securities and Exchange Commission handle those matters.

“Right now I'm not using the experiences there, that's not shaping how I'm viewing the economy or where our policy stance should be,” Bostic said.

[Read the full transcript here.]

With interest rates near-zero and the Fed snatching up about $120 billion a month in assets, concerns are building that easy monetary policy could lead to instability in the system.

But Powell has insisted that the broad growth of the stock market is more attributable to optimism over the post-pandemic economy than it is to Fed policy.

“It’s been expectations about vaccines and also fiscal policy — those are the news items that have been driving asset values in recent months,” Powell said on Jan. 27.

Brian Cheung is a reporter covering the Fed, economics, and banking for Yahoo Finance. You can follow him on Twitter @bcheungz.

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