Exploding retail activity
The number of retail investors has been growing since commissions were broadly cut to zero in late 2019.
Demand is coming through in multiple ways but it’s arguably in the options market where retail traders are having the most impact.
Option volumes have exploded, and at the same time retail is growing as a share of the overall market. Retail was already a big player in the options market, accounting for 40% to 45% of contract volume pre-COVID, but that figure rose during 2020 to over 55% of the market by the third quarter.
The herd has arrived
Much of this volume has been driven by investors congregating on sites like Reddit’s WallStreetBets forums. On January 26th, GameStop was the most traded stock in the U.S in terms of trading value. More GameStop shares traded by value than even Apple. Frenzied investors pushed GameStop’s market cap to an eye-popping $25 billion from a little over $1 billion at the start of the month.
Having the ticker symbol “GME” was helpful even if you are in Australia. A relatively small Australian mining company called GME Resources, which has the same ticker symbol as GameStop (but in Australia), was mistakenly rewarded by the retail crowd with a 20% up day.
Trading volume in the most expensive stocks has skyrocketed