Chinese small-cap stocks surge in meme-like rally

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[1/2] The Nasdaq logo is displayed at the Nasdaq Market site in Times Square in New York City, U.S., December 3, 2021. REUTERS/Jeenah Moon/File Photo

NEW YORK, April 28 (Reuters) - The U.S.-listed shares of small and micro-cap Chinese firms soared on Friday, reminiscent of meme-like rallies last summer that were underpinned by strong demand from retail investors.

So-called meme rallies are unusual share price gains, driven by social media sites patronized by individual traders.

Online brokerage firm Top Financial Group Ltd (TOP.O) spiked 645% to $149 per share in afternoon trading on Friday, continuing the trajectory recorded during premarket trading and giving the company a market capitalization of about $5 billion.

The stock had nearly tripled to $20 per share in regular hours on Thursday and closed at a total market value of $701 million.

Magic Empire Global Ltd (MEGL.O), a provider of financial advisory and underwriting services, jumped 328% to $3.97 per share. It had closed at $0.93, shedding 7.2%, with a market capitalization of $18.8 million during regular market hours on Thursday.

Both Top Financial and Magic Empire are currently two of the most watched stocks on Stocktwits, a website that is popular among retail investors. Magic Empire was the third-most traded stock by retail investors as of 1 p.m. ET (1700 GMT), according data tracked by J.P. Morgan Chase .

Top KingWin Ltd (TCJH.O), a provider of consulting and advisory services, gained 39%, and U Power Ltd (UCAR.O), which is launching automated battery-swapping stations for electric vehicles in China, is up 20%. Both firms listed on the Nasdaq last week after pricing their respective initial public offerings.

"These are the latest in a years-long pattern of dozens of Nasdaq-listed companies being used by offshore scammers to run pump and dump schemes," said Nathan Anderson, founder of short selling firm Hindenburg Research.

"Nasdaq should be halting these tickers, but the exchange instead seems content to collect listing fees through brazen fraud operating in broad daylight," Anderson added.

A Nasdaq spokesperson declined to comment.

Nasdaq, however, had in October halted IPO preparations of at least four small Chinese companies while it was investigating short-lived stock rallies of such firms following their debuts, and along with the non-governmental securities body Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) in November warned about a heightened threat of fraud involving small-cap IPOs, driven partly by a social media-driven pump-and-dump scheme called "pig butchering."

Reporting by Chibuike Oguh in New York and Bansari Mayur Kamdar in Bengaluru Additional reporting by Medha Singh; Editing by Lance Tupper and Sharon Singleton

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Thomson Reuters

Chibuike reports on mostly large U.S.-based private equity firms, including Blackstone, KKR, Carlyle, and Apollo. He previously worked at Bloomberg News, and holds master's degrees in journalism from New York University and Edinburgh Napier University. Contact: 332-999-6154

Thomson Reuters

Bansari reports on the global financial markets and writes Reuters' daily flagship market reports on equities, bonds and currencies. An economist by training and winner of the Arthur MacEwan Award for Excellence in Political Economy, she has written for renowned global papers and magazines including The Diplomat, Boston Globe, Conversation, Huffington Post and more.

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