Retail investors poured a record amount of money into the stock market in January, according to Vanda Research. They invested an average of $1.51 billion a day into the U.S. markets, the highest amount ever recorded, the firm found. “This investor group has continued driving US equity market swings since the second half of last year. With recent surveys showing the institutional investor community remaining broadly bearish on stocks, it would be unwise to underestimate the importance of the retail cohort,” Vanda Research’s senior vice president, Mario Iachini, wrote in a note Thursday. Retail investors’ interest in the market picked up during the Covid pandemic, at one point fueling a meme-stock frenzy. Their interest abated during the bear market and amid rising interest rates, but has recently rebounded again with the stock market off to a great start to 2023. JPMorgan’s chief global market strategist, Marko Kolanovic, also recently noted the pickup in retail interest. “Retail activity (volumes) are near record high with over 20% of all market volume coming from retail orders,” he wrote in a note to clients on Wednesday. Here are the top securities bought by retail investors so far this year, as of Feb. 15, according to Vanda Research. However, beyond these top 10 names are a number of smaller-cap stocks that have attracted significant inflows this year, Iachini said. For instance, Rivian Automotive has seen inflows of $226 million and Cathie Wood’s ARK Innovation ETF had $169 million in inflows. Some $154 million flowed into Shopify , a holding of ARKK. In fact, this year has not only seen a pick-up in retail purchase of the ARKK ETF but also some of its holdings, Iachini said. “It was common back in 2020-21 for retail investors to buy ARK ETFs while at the same time piling in some of their more hyped underlyings,” he wrote. “While we don’t expect retail speculation to reach those levels for the reasons discussed above, it is noteworthy that retail investors are vastly outpacing Cathie Wood and Co. regarding purchases across some of these names.” ARKK 1Y mountain Ark Innovation ETF 12-month performance Retail inflows are expected to abate somewhat in the coming weeks as earnings season comes to a close and investors start preparing for tax day in mid-April, Iachini said. “However, if broad equity markets continue to perform well, we may see flows shifting towards smaller, more speculative companies,” he noted. Investors should “heed signals from the “unsophisticated money crowd,” he said. “Contrary to popular belief, retail money market funds’ net assets at an all-time high suggest that retail investors still have plenty of capital to allocate to riskier investments, provided that market conditions remain supportive,” he added. Though JPMorgan’s Kolanovic warned the prevailing sentiment in the equity market rally “is of exuberance and greed.” He believes that a sell-off is due in part because of this irrational interest from the retail crowd. — CNBC’s Michael Bloom contributed reporting.
Retail investors are flooding into the stock market at a record level — Here's what they are buying