There are a select few money managers whose words can move entire markets, but up to this point, only one has mastered the medium of Twitter Inc (NYSE:TWTR): Carl Icahn. After creating an account earlier this year, the billionaire has disclosed a few big positions on the micro blogging site, including a purchase of Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) and a sale of Netflix, Inc. (NASDAQ:NFLX) stock.
While the media has had a lot to say about Icahn’s Twitter account, no one has taken the time to examine his trades in terms of social media sentiment. For someone who is likely the world’s most socially active hedge fund manager, surprisingly little analysis has been done in this realm.
With the help of Market Prophit, a company that converts stock-related social media posts into easy-to-read data, we’re able to look at how much chatter Icahn’s biggest trades created. More interestingly, it appears that some of this buzz actually predicted the moves before they happened.
Netflix was the recipient of a major cut by Icahn late last month. In a 13D filing and subsequent tweet after the market’s close on October 22nd, the investor reported a 4.5% stake in the streaming video company, about half of what he previously owned. This move came 24 hours after Netflix’s stock price had surged on promising third quarter earnings.
Market Prophit’s CEO, Igor Gonta, revealed to us that on the morning of the 22nd, social media circles were already buzzing about a major seller “doing large block sales” of Netflix, and Icahn’s name was visibly in the rumor mill. By the time the market had closed, Icahn’s official SEC disclosure pressed the stock to drop almost all of its gains from the previous day’s earnings report.
Any analysis of Carl Icahn and Twitter must include Apple. On the afternoon of August 13th this year, Icahn tweeted that he had a “large position” in the tech giant on the basis of undervaluation, adding that a conversation with Tim Cook was on the table. As Gonta pointed out to us, shares of Apple rallied by nearly 2.5% just 20 minutes after Icahn’s initial tweet, and social media sentiment turned positive approximately two minutes prior to the reveal (see graph here).
The next major event on the Icahn-Apple timeline was on October 1st. Halfway through the morning on this date, Icahn tweeted about the dinner he had with Tim Cook the night before, in which he reiterated his desire for Apple to pursue a $150 billion share buyback plan.
Market Prophit again picked up on bullish chatter before Icahn’s tweet went live at 10:23am. This time, an uptick in positive social chatter led the tweet by a full 40 minutes, and shares of Apple had already risen by almost one full percentage point by half past ten. According to Gonta, social media sentiment turned negative immediately following Icahn’s tweet “because the price had already run up,” indicating that a classic “sell the news” phenomenon had just taken place.
Sitting here in early November, it’s unknown if Icahn will succeed in his quest to convince Apple that a larger buyback will lead to a $1,250 stock price. What we can say with confidence, though, is if the hedge fund manager is active on Twitter again, social media chatter may predict it.