News & Analysis

Why did Palantir shares suddenly spike and immediately drop yesterday?

Andrew Saks, Wednesday, 21 July 2021

Big data and analytics a few years ago was looked upon by even the most technophobic of luddites as a positive.

After the analog years of the power dressing, Filofax-toting 1980s and the transitional years of the post boom-and-bust 1990s, the world began its steps toward reliance on the internet.

Phrases such as Y2K are now a very distant memory, however the world's then-naive misty eyed marvelling at the data revolution is certainly a turning point to look back on.

In financial technology, entire trading networks went from local venues to giant networks, and the cacophony of the 'open outcry' trading floors in stock exchanges across Wall Street and Lombard Street became suddenly silent yet quadrupled their volumes.

Giant connectivity companies rose up from out of nowhere and now power the entire world's markets, moving trading transactions between global venues for execution within fractions of a millisecond.

Back then, 'big data' was the next big thing. The man in the street boasted about how his online accounts with various companies knew so much about him that he did not have to start from scratch every time he wanted to do something.

Nowadays, the tables have turned. The world's population lives firmly in the age of big data. An entire generation has grown up with it. Gone is the view that this is all aimed at making life easier.

People today fear big data. They see large data companies as their enemy, not their friend, whilst governments around the world use the collection of data to control and monitor their populations, especially in illiberal yet technologically advanced states such as China, whose government uses a sophisticated, nationally isolated internet system to control 1.4 billion of its citizens.

Opinions vary on Silicon Valley's big tech firms, some view them in the same vein as China's government-owned internet infrastructure.

Now, the switch to perceived tech-led tyranny is a concern that is in the public domain.

Palantir, a New York Stock Exchange-listed big data company with a very controversial history, had a big jump in share prices yesterday at around 17.30 GMT, before suddenly going back down again.

Palantir, which made its debut onto the New York Stock Exchange in September last year, is known in North America as a data company that takes on controversial work for the US government.

Its entry into the publicly listed arena came at an opportune time. It was just at the time when European governments began to double down on their lockdown policies.

Initially, stock rose and it became very investible, and the company began to turn its attention toward British shores in an unwelcome partnership with the National Health Service, which resulted in the National Health Service being taken to court by Open Democracy, a public interest group which acts against illiberal government policy.

Palantir's initial involvement in the NHS began in March 2020 alongside other tech giants, as part of a ramping up of data collection by the state as part of the lockdown ideology, using a so-called "datastore" of health information.

At that time, Open Democracy, which labels Palantir a "spy-tech" company, became critical of the extension of that short-term contract in December. It will now run for two years, and cost £23.5 million.

When it listed in September, Palantir's stock was 50% above its reference price about 30 minutes into trading. It finished the day at $9.50, or 31% above the reference price.

Today, it is a different story. A gradual decline has been taking place, as public favor is not on the side of the state, and discontent has arisen across Britain and parts of Europe over the endless 'pinging' of people to order them to lock themselves down, itself an abuse of data, the seemingly endless surveillance that is replacing freedom which is being brought about by massive contracts with data firms just like this one.

The spike that occurred yesterday is rather odd. Palantir stock, which is currently worth $22.18 per share, rose suddenly within 30 minutes to $23.83 per share, and then half an hour later went back down to $22 per share. looking at the daily chart, the spike is absolutely evident.

This is likely because investors were bombarded yesterday by mainstream news and tabloid newspaper headlines that the NHS Track & Trace app is 'pinging' as many people as possible on the first day after July 19’s promise of ending all restrictions, therefore conducting a type of lockdown via mobile technology.

It is almost unbelievable that anyone allows this app to be present in their lives, yet over 1.7 million British adults were locked down as of yesterday due to this 'pinging' by failed TalkTalk CEO Dido Harding's watertight contract with the British government worth tens of millions of pounds.

Perhaps investors quickly jumped on that news and thought that other data companies that work closely with the open check book of the National Health Service with regard to monitoring the behavior of citizens instead of treating illnesses would be a potentially good investment as further lockdowns loom at the hands of these government contractors which are making a fortune.

Any such speculation, if this was the case, is often a cause of volatility.

Let's see if the public votes with its feet and sends Dido Harding's bizarre application packing, and in doing so, creates a lack of confidence in such systems, and then we can revisit the trends in Palantir's share price.


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