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MicroVision soars 47%, leading 'meme stocks' higher

April 26 (Reuters) - Shares of laser-developer MicroVision Inc jumped 47% on Monday and other Reddit favorites rallied, suggesting that interest in so-called meme stocks remains strong after a wild ride this year.

MicroVision, which develops laser scanning technology for automotive lidar sensors and augmented reality, was the most mentioned stock on Reddit’s popular WallStreetBets forum on Monday, according to sentiment tracker SwaggyStocks.

Other so-called meme stocks, which have been a focus on WallStreetBets and other online forums populated by retail traders, were also higher on Monday, including GameStop, AMC Entertainment and Koss Corp.

“I think it’s retail coming back in to start the week,” said Rick Meckler, partner, Cherry Lane Investments, a family investment office in New Vernon, New Jersey. “The meme stocks tend to be more emotional for investors and very momentum driven.”

Meme stocks grabbed the spotlight earlier this year, when a flurry of buying in the shares of video game retailer GameStop forced bearish investors to unwind their bets against the stock, sparking a nearly 1700% rally and surges in other Reddit-favorites in January.

Trading in the names has been highly volatile in the last few months, though GameStop shares are still up nearly 800% on the year.

“This market has been highly speculative at the edges for months. Retail interest appears to remain strong for high-beta speculative names,” Meckler said.

MicroVision shares closed at $26.44 on Monday after rising as high as $27.80 during the high-volume trading session. The stock is up 391% year-to-date.

In the past, investors have been particularly sensitive to news about the company’s Long Range Lidar Sensor technology and the company has set expectations that it could complete samples of the technology within its April timeframe.

Short interest in MicroVision stood at about 18.7% of the float, with 29.37 million of the company’s stock sold short as of Friday’s close, according to S3 Partners.

The number of shares shorted increased by 1.4 million in the last seven days, showing some investors placed bearish bets as the shares have rallied, said S3’s Ihor Dusaniwsky.

“We are seeing shorting into a red-hot stock as shorts are looking for a pullback,” Dusaniwsky said.

But bearish investors could be “squeezed out of their positions due to losses” if the shares continue rallying, he said.

In Monday’s trading alone, short sellers were showing mark-to-market losses of $227 million on the day when the stock was trading at $25.69, Dusaniwsky said.

Short seller Hindenburg Research said in a Dec. 22 Twitter post that it was betting against the company’s shares. It did not reply to a request for comment on Monday.

MicroVision’s options were the sixth most active among single stock names on Monday, with heavy trading in call options betting on the stock to gain another 30% by mid-May, according to Trade Alert.

The company is due to report results on April 29. A representative for MicroVision said on Monday that the company does not comment on movements in its share price. (Reporting By Sinéad Carew and Saqib Iqbal Ahmed; Editing by Ira Iosebashvili and Richard Pullin)

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