- The surge of retail investors will likely be in the stock market for the long haul, experts told Insider.
- Fee-free trading, access to market data, and social media, are making it easier to trade.
- “They see it as more than just a trade or an investment. They see it as a movement,” one expert said.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
The horde of retail traders who have flooded the stock market in the past year are here to stay – even when the market turns sour, experts told Insider.
Since January 2020, retail investors bought $400 billion in stocks, doubling their total equity purchases from years prior, according to Vanda Research. Stock buying had been on the upswing for years before that though as more everyday investors had better access to market data and fee-free trading, thanks to brokerage apps like Robinhood, among others.
Dave Lauer, a stock market structure expert who has been interacting with retail investors, said the COVID-19 pandemic simply accelerated the number of day traders joining the market. But now that they’re here, “they’re here to stay,” he said.
For the first time, he’s seeing hundreds of thousands of people wanting to learn about how markets work and improve them.
“They see it as more than just a trade or an investment,” he said. “They see it as a movement.”
Matt Kohrs, a 26-year-old day trader with more than 300,000 followers on his YouTube trading channel, said the community of retail investors came together because they’re “tired of the tilted game” of Wall Street.
“The driving factor is a huge social-cultural movement,” he said. “It just happens to be playing out on a stock chart.”
Retail traders have joined the stock market in droves before.
Kristina Hooper, chief global market strategist at Invesco, said the dot-com bubble in the 90s had an “extraordinary level” of retail participation.
During that time, “it was not Reddit and Wall Street Bets and forums; it was taxi drivers in New York City talking about their favorite dot-com picks,” said Darren Schuringa, the founder of ASYMmetric ETFs, a firm designed to empower retail investors.
The difference now, according to Tuttle Capital Management Chief Executive Officer Matt Tuttle, “is the access now to all sorts of information, it’s the ability to trade for free and to trade quickly, and it’s the fact that they’re connected.”
That connection, Tuttle said, has given them the buying power of institutional investors.
For example, in January, hordes of day traders mobilizing on Reddit drove shares of GameStop to sky-high prices and caused short-sellers to lose billions. The event started the trend of “meme stocks,” and since then, the traders have driven share prices of multiple other companies, like AMC Entertainment and BlackBerry, up as well.
“They’ve got some power,” Tuttle said. “What history tells you is people who have power don’t give it up, at least not willingly.”
Even a market correction isn’t likely to faze retail traders, though they’ll likely face losses and some will exit, the experts said.
Hooper said a market correction could be on the horizon, though it will be short lived and won’t dent retail appetite.
“If you only have a downturn that lasts a few days and then stocks start going back up, will it shake out a lot of retail investors? Probably not,” she said.
However, a correction could hit meme stocks “quite hard,” she said, “because if there is one area where the fundamentals aren’t backing it, it’s meme stocks.”
Lauer, on the other hand, said meme stocks might avoid a correction because they appear to trade “relatively independent of what the market is doing.”
Kohrs said because retail traders make money off volatility, they could have even “bigger gains” in a bear market if executed properly.
“If you have proper risk management,” Schuringa said, “you can make money on both sides of the trade.”