U.S. markets ran out of gas Wednesday afternoon. The Nasdaq Composite closed flat, and it was the day’s best performer. Stocks were trading higher at midday, but the energy sector kept sinking to close down 2.9% for the day. Crude oil was trading down about 2% early Thursday to under $81 a barrel. Yields on 10-year Treasury notes were nearly flat, and Bitcoin added about 3.4% to trade just shy of $61,000.
Thursday futures trading was off to a decent start, with the three major indexes all showing gains. The Nasdaq put up a gain of nearly 0.6%, perhaps on expectations of good quarterly reports due out after markets close from Amazon and Apple.
Among our meme stock watch list, Wednesday’s big winner was cybersecurity company IronNet Inc. (NYSE: IRNT). The company announced that it had joined the Microsoft Intelligent Security Association, which bestows on IronNet membership in a “vibrant ecosystem comprised of the most reliable and trusted security software vendors across the globe,” according to Maria Thomson, the group’s lead. Why this is worth a share price spike of nearly 60% is left as an exercise for the reader.
Cryptocurrency custody provider Bakkt Holdings Inc. (NYSE: BKKT) jumped nearly 24% on Wednesday and traded up another 5.5% in Thursday’s premarket. Bakkt’s announced deals with Mastercard and Fiserv give banks and other businesses the opportunity to issue their own crypto debit and credit cards. Investors clearly think this is a winning idea. Time will tell.
Robinhood Markets Inc. (NASDAQ: HOOD) dropped more than 10% on Wednesday after reporting quarterly results that left investors cold. Analysts and investors were disappointed by the company’s reported decline in cryptocurrency trading. Whether that reflected disaffection with crypto or with Robinhood is not clear. The stock traded down about 1.5% more in Thursday’s premarket.
Vertex Energy Inc. (NASDAQ: VTNR) on Wednesday announced the pricing of a $155 million offering of convertible senior notes. The oil and gas producer expects to net $133.9 million from the offering and plans to use $33.7 million to fund a portion of its announced acquisition of an Alabama refinery, another $13 million to acquire services and equipment to modify the refinery, to repay $10.9 million in debt, and $400,000 to repay leases. The rest will be used for working capital. The stock rose nearly 9% on Wednesday but traded lower early Thursday.
What might be most interesting about Vertex is its plan to re-refine used products, ultimately reducing the demand for new supplies of crude oil. While Vertex’s scale is still too small to have much effect, the longer-term strategy could be sound. Oil companies are either not trying or not succeeding to get funding to increase capital drilling projects. Many are focused on returning capital to investors, basically by putting themselves out of business over an extended period. A strange business model, certainly, but perhaps one that investors in oil are willing to get behind.