NEW YORK (The Deal) -- A very weird week for Glencore (GLNCY) got stranger still on Monday when the company's shares briefly shot up an astonishing 72% on the Hong Kong exchange for no apparent reason.
Glencore shares touched HK$18.36 ($2.37), up from a Friday close of HK$10.7 before paring gains to close at HK$12.60, up 17.8% on the day. The spike left Glencore scratching its head as to what had happened, much as it did seven days ago when its shares collapsed 30% in a single session, again for little tangible reason.
"The board confirms that it is not aware of any reasons for these price and volume movements or of any information which must be announced," the company said on Monday.
The massive price movements have sparked plenty of conspiracy theories and not a little dumb analysis.
In seeking to hang Monday's share price movement on something tangible, some media outlets cited an unsourced report in England's Sunday Telegraph that claimed the mining and commodity trader would be willing to listen to takeovers for the entire company so long as they could find someone willing "to pay a fair value for the business."
That is about as surprising as discovering that rain is still wet. Under U.K.'s City Code, and EU regulation, it is incumbent on all listed-company boards to consider reasonable takeover bids. For Glencore to declare anything different would put its board in breach of its responsibilities.
Rumors that Glencore is closing in on the sale of a stake in its agricultural division have also been fingered as a possible culprit for Monday's price hike. Glencore is in talks with a Saudi sovereign wealth fund, China National Cereals, Oils and Foodstuffs, and perhaps some Canadian pension funds, Reuters reported on Friday.
That hardly seems exciting enough to light a fire under Glencore shares. Glencore's CEO and biggest shareholder, Ivan Glasenberg, flagged the very same sale back on Sept. 7 when he unveiled plans to offload $2 billion of assets, sell $2.5 billion of new shares and cut costs to slash debt by $10.2 billion to $20 billion by the end of 2016.
That leaves Glencore facing the possibility of a more nefarious catalyst for recent volatility. "There are lots of conspiracy theories doing the rounds," said a London-based fund manager who asked not to be named. "It is plausible some macro funds took advantage of market nervousness to try to knock Glencore over last week."
The advantage of that theory is that it fits with Glencore's rapid share price recovery last week and the spike on Monday. "It could be that we are now seeing an unwinding of short bets on the equity side," explained the fund manager.
That might also explain why the shares rocketed so much in Hong Kong, where short-sellers could easily find themselves in a bind if they had to clear a position quickly. Hong Kong is Glencore's secondary listing behind London. Trading of Glencore shares in Hong Kong tends to be sparse, potentially leaving someone having to clear a large short position exposed to the sort of peaks that were witnessed on Monday.
Of course, all that is only market gossip, but it makes more sense than anything else out there.
Shares in Glencore traded late Monday on the London exchange at 113.65 pence ($1.72), up 18.65 pence, or 19.63%, on their Friday close. Despite those gains, Glencore shares are still 66% down on their price of a year ago. The company's American shares recently traded up 6.5% at $3.59.