Abra Mining & Industrial Corp. has no revenue and zero analyst coverage. Yet, the loss-making mining company’s stock has more than doubled in 2021 and is also the most-traded name in the Philippines.

The penny stock’s surge showcases the extremes to which the retail mania has reached in the Philippines, home to one of the world’s worst-performing equity markets this year. Discouraged by the decline in the nation’s benchmark gauge, mom-and-pop investors have been loading up on speculative names in the hope of lucrative returns.

“Punters favor third liners like Abra particularly when the market is consolidating and there’s not much catalyst to move the market higher,” said Astro del Castillo, managing director at First Grade Finance Inc. “They like stocks like Abra because it’s easier to make money – little is needed to move it up.”

Shares of Abra Mining accounted for almost 80% of the Philippine market’s average daily transaction volume this year through Feb. 3. The stock is up 103% this year even as the Philippine Stock Exchange Index has fallen 3.3%.

Some market watchers have attributed the surge in Abra Mining to speculation that a new investor will come in to develop its gold mines. The company has two gold-mining projects in northern Philippines, one of which began operations in the 1970s, according to its website. President James Beloy wasn’t available for comment.

“Many retail investors are buying stocks on stories rather than fundamentals,” said Rachelle Cruz, an analyst at AP Securities Inc. “They don’t look at the numbers.”

In response to six inquiries by the stock exchange in January, Abra Mining said it wasn’t aware of any information nor could it speculate as to reason for the stock’s unusual price movements.

Still, punters couldn’t have enough of the stock. After plunging 27% in the last week of January, Abra Mining is heading for a gain of at least 20% this week. The stock’s year-to-date gain peaked at 279% on Jan. 19, when it closed at 1.1 centavos, the highest since December 2007 and above its 1 centavo par value. It closed at 0.59 centavo Thursday.

“Many of those who made money bought Abra a long time ago and just held on to it while waiting for a time like this when funds rotate back to speculatives,” First Grade Finance’s Del Castillo said. “Gains will come at the expense of those who are late into the game.”

Source: Bloomberg