Buying the BUZZ: A new ETF to track stocks hyped on social media launches today

March 5, 2021, 11:00 AM UTC

At this point, is anyone surprised?

A movie theater chain. The company that makes Tootsie Rolls. And of course, GameStop. The rally in so-called Reddit stocks has been one of the stock market’s most surprising storylines in 2021. And now a new exchange-traded fund is launching that will track these “buzzy” stocks boosted by social media.

Launched by VanEck Vectors Social Sentiment, the new ETF (ticker: BUZZ) tracks the 75 stocks that are getting the most social media hype and packages them into an exchange-traded fund, according to VanEck’s fund description of the new ETF.

BUZZ gathers its data through the Buzz NextGen AI U.S. Sentiment Leaders Index, which tracks stocks with a $5 billion minimum market capitalization that have seen consistent and diverse mentions on social media over the past year. 

The index uses an algorithm that determines whether those comments are positive, negative, or neutral, then ranks each stock based on the degree of positive sentiment and breadth of discussion, according to the fund description.

Anywhere from 250 to 350 stocks will meet the initial criteria, but only the top 75 that have the highest social media sentiment enter the index. 

“We are aggregating the collective sentiment of the community,” said Jamie Wise, CEO of Buzz Holdings and the originator of the index, in an interview with CNBC. “This is about the broader conversation around stocks mentioned on social media platforms. We are using broad social media sources, principally Twitter and StockTwits.”

The idea of measuring stocks based on momentum is not new, and BUZZ is not the only ETF to do so. But measuring based on social media buzz is a more modern concept that has taken on new life in recent years. The Buzz NextGen AI U.S. Sentiment Leaders Index opened in December 2015. According to Wise, the index has outperformed the S&P 500 in four of the past five years.

On the flip side, many buy-and-hold advocates have their doubts about whether buying momentum stocks is a smart move. BUZZ is also facing scrutiny because Dave Portnoy, president of Barstool Sports, is part owner of Buzz Holdings, which owns the Buzz NextGen AI U.S. Sentiment Leaders Index.

Portnoy, who did not respond to a request for comment, is known for giving his takes on the stock market on social media. He posts a daily video called Davey Day Trader listing everything he’s investing in, ranging from sports betting to the stock market. This morning’s Davey Day Trader had 148.6k viewers at the time of publication. 

CNBC’s Mad Money host Jim Cramer sent out a Tweet on Thursday endorsing the ETF based on Portnoy’s involvement. “BUZZ–now this is an ETF that fascinates me; algorithmically chosen; endorsed by someone loved by many: @stoolpresidente .. if people blitz this etf today it will move 75 stocks that the algos say are the most compelling stocks today…” Cramer wrote.

“We have the owner of an index company hyping an index who is himself the subject of the index,” said Dave Nadig, director of research at ETF Trends in an interview with CNBC. “The point of the index is to find stocks who are hyped, but Portnoy is the one who is hyping the stocks. He is the subject of his own methodology.”

Penn National Gaming (ticker: PENN), which bought a 36% stake in Portnoy’s Barstool Sports last year, is currently ranked 21 on the index.

When asked to comment on Portnoy’s involvement, Wise told CNBC that Portnoy is “not here to direct people on who to invest in.” For anyone keeping track, as of 1:15 p.m. EST on Thursday, he had sent out 35 Tweets endorsing the new ETF. 

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