By Medha Singh and Bansari Mayur Kamdar
(Reuters) - (This Aug 16 story corrects headline and first paragraph to remove language suggesting Cohen had increased his bet on Bed Bath & Beyond's stock. Adds a paragraph to clarify Cohen had disclosed the options purchases in March.)
Shares of Bed Bath & Beyond Inc surged 60% to a near five-month high in volatile trading on Tuesday, as retail investors flocked to the stock after a filing discussed activist investor Ryan Cohen's bet on the home goods retailer.
The stock rose as much as 78.8% to $28.60 during the session and trading was halted multiple times for volatility.
Cohen's investment vehicle RC Ventures, which is the second largest investor in the company and has added three independent directors to its board, bought call options expiring in January 2023 on 1.67 million shares with a strike price ranging from $60 to $80.
Cohen had disclosed the options purchases in March.
An option gives the buyer the right to buy or sell a security at a given price on a given date. Buying a call option is essentially betting the underlying asset will rise in price.
"You see his name (Cohen) associated and it gets the buzz going. So right now social media buzz is flying around Bed Bath and Beyond and it is spilling over other stocks as well," said Dennis Dick, retail trader at Triple D Trading.
The home furnishing company's shares were the most traded on brokerage Fidelity's platform, indicating interest from retail investors.
About 300 million shares changed hands by 2:30 p.m. ET, far outpacing the stock's 30-day moving average volume of nearly 29 million.
Trading in Bed Bath & Beyond, which has 50.7% of its public free float in short position, has triggered a short squeeze signal, according to analytics firm Ortex.
The stock is up 440% so far this month in a rally that is evocative of eye-watering gains in shares of GameStop and AMC Entertainment early last year that hurt hedge funds that had bet against the stock.
Other highly shorted stocks, meal-kit delivery firm Blue Apron, sports TV streaming co FuboTV, GameStop and barbecue grill maker Weber Inc jumped between 8% and 53%.
Bed Bath & Beyond opened lower on Tuesday after B. Riley downgraded the stock to "sell", saying the shares were trading at "unrealistic valuations."
(Reporting by Medha Singh, Bansari Mayur Kamdar and Sruthi Shankar in Bengaluru; Editing by Maju Samuel and Shinjini Ganguli)