Skip to main content

Retail investors currently account for roughly 10 per cent of daily trading volume on the Russell 3000, the broadest U.S. stocks index, after peaking at 15 per cent in September as lockdown boredom and extra savings triggered interest in stock markets, Morgan Stanley said on Wednesday.

The retail frenzy from last summer carried over into 2021 with so-called “meme stocks” such as GameStop Corp. and AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc. rapidly soaring more than 1,000 per cent, leaving professional traders perplexed.

The average daily trading volume on the Russell 3000 index over the past five days was US$380-billion, according to Refinitiv data, meaning individual traders contributed around US$38-billion a day.

European retail investors on the other hand make up a 5-per-cent share of total market volume, Euronext recently said.

Morgan Stanley says the phenomenon has prompted many questions from its clients about how to effectively estimate retail activity.

“We find that retail investors tend to prefer companies in sectors they are likely to be familiar with as consumers, such as consumer discretionary, communication services, and technology,” the U.S. investment bank said in a note.

Applying its own methodologies, Morgan Stanley found that over the five-year period from July, 2016, to June, 2021, stocks with high retail participation continued to outperform stocks with low retail participation over the subsequent one month.

The bank’s number crunching also highlighted that these traders have bifurcated quality preference, with greatest activity in high quality and junk names.

Metamaterial Inc., formerly Torchlight Energy, was the latest name to see huge speculative bets by small individual traders. Clover Health Investments Corp. and Koss Corp. were other names that made headlines on a retail trading frenzy.

Be smart with your money. Get the latest investing insights delivered right to your inbox three times a week, with the Globe Investor newsletter. Sign up today.

Report an error

Tickers mentioned in this story