Despite Omicron, retail purchases of U.S. equities just notched a new all-time high
Omicron worries be damned. Individual investors are still betting billions in the U.S. stock market.
In the days since the emergence of the newest mutation of the COVID-19 virus, U.S. equities have been in a tizzy. The S&P 500 plunged Friday, recovered Monday, ticked lower again on Tuesday, and popped on the open Wednesday. It’s been a wild succession of trading days in which Wall Street investors have raced to shuffle their holdings based on any hint of new information, whether that be related to the Federal Reserve’s tapering timeline or Pfizer executives’ optimism about the outlook for a vaccine that addresses Omicron.
Retail investors—the cohort of individuals from around the world who have captivated finance throughout the pandemic—have been buying up a flurry of stocks with seemingly little hesitation all the while.
New data from Vanda Research show that while individual trading volumes are not where they were at the beginning of the pandemic, retail purchases of U.S. equities reached an all-time high of $2.2 billion Tuesday, just days after hitting $2.1 billion during the post-Thanksgiving day selloff.
On Tuesday, as Fed Chair Jerome Powell hinted that the central bank may soon be adopting a more hawkish approach to monetary policy, investors still gobbled up tech stocks, which have historically proved vulnerable in a raising rate environment. Net retail purchases have coalesced over the past five days around names like Apple, Pfizer, AT&T, and Uber, according to Vanda data. Friday it was airlines and energy stocks that drew the interest of retail investors, who presumably saw the previously COVID-19-battered names’ latest declines as another buying opportunity.
The findings are in many ways unsurprising. Over the past two years, following the brokerage industry’s adoption of the zero-commission-fee model pioneered by Robinhood, individuals have flooded the markets in a remarkable fashion that has included igniting the meme-stock mania, upending conventional investment strategies, and seemingly always having an optimistic view that stocks only go up.
And in many ways, they’ve been right to be bullish: The S&P 500, despite its recent struggles, is still up more than 25% on the year.
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