I’ve been doing some research on how people use social media data to make stock-trading decisions, or to allow computers to make stock trades for them, for a story I’ve been trying to pitch. It’s a very bizarre practice not only because social media are so easily manipulated, but also because it separates stock investing so completely from anything other than market sentiment — which is a bit finicky and not concerned with the long-term health of anyone, anything, and certainly not any individual corporation. It’s as pure as it is perverse. It’s also a perfect mirror image of the way Wall Street has started to work — the reflection it shows is not a pretty one.
ANYWAY, I noticed a while back that “AP Rocky” was trending on Twitter, which is a mix-up in the way Twitter treats certain letters and characters. A$AP Rocky, of course, was what people were talking about, because he played Black JFK in the Lana Del Rey music video where Lana Del Rey plays both Jackie O AND Marilyn Monroe, confusingly, which had premiered that day.
The way people who share information about stocks on Twitter set the ticker symbols apart from the rest of their tweet is by a.) USING ALL CAPS (obvs) and b.) a dollar sign. So Facebook is $FB and Apple is $AAPL, so on and so forth. The dollar sign is the hashtag of the stock Twitter world. There exist people out there who cull this data, have computers gauge market sentiment, and make trades based off of that. Supposedly some hedge funds do, too.
Late yesterday, Twitter made the “cashtag” — the slang for this $TICKER nonsense — an official feature of the site. This upends all the work other people were doing to make crowdsourced Bloomberg Terminals, but it still allows for some pretty funny stuff, as pointed out by StockTwits founder, Howard Lindzon in an angry blog post. Hitatchi’s ticker is HIT, meaning its cashtag is $HIT; Walgreens’ ticker is WAG, meaning its cashtag is $WAG. Neither turn up actionable information for day traders for what I imagine are pretty obvious reasons. Lindzon claims his system clears the “rappers” out of StockTwits.
Back to A$AP Rocky. Naturally I wondered whether there exists a stock with the ticker AP — which the “$AP” part of A$AP Rocky’s name would register as to a program that scrubs Twitter for this sort of data — and whether it is trading up on positive mentions of the music video.
Lo and behold, Ampco-Pittsburgh Corp, which makes machine parts I’m pretty sure, trades on the NYSE as AP. And it was trading up a full point that day (PICTURED ABOVE), though the S&P 500 and Dow Jones (also on the chart) were trading flat. There was no other news about Ampco-Pittsburgh that day (June 27) that I could find, though it did come out that durables and machinery sales were up, so maybe it was that.
It’s way more entertaining to think that Twitter did it, however unlikely.