Individual investors are “holding more stock than ever before as major indexes climb to fresh highs,” says a recent article in The Wall Street Journal that adds, “They are also upping the ante by borrowing to magnify their bets or increasingly buying on small dips in the market.”
Data from JPMorgan Chase shows that stockholdings among U.S. households has ballooned to a record 41% of their total financial assets in April—the increase is attributed to higher allocations to along with higher share prices, the article reports.
“The enthusiasm for stocks comes as market volatility has been edging lower and the S&P 500 has hit 25 records this year,” the article states, “fueled by a stellar earnings season and the prospect of an economic recovery that is speedier than many predicted. Meanwhile, stimulus checks have fueled a record rise in household incomes, boosting spending and helping propel the recovery.”
According to the article, millions of new brokerage accounts opened during the pandemic and first-time investors have “stuck around.” Financial advisers and money managers say that their clients have “grown more comfortable holding stocks as they witnessed the powerful rally over the past year, with some even questioning why they need bonds in their portfolios with yields still so low.”
Investors do not appear to be put off by market volatility, the article reports, citing data from Vanda Research showing that individual investors tend to buy more shares on days when the S&P 500 dips by 1% than when it rises by the same amount, and that some have even borrowed to “amplify their stock-market bets.” A survey by the American Association of Individual Investors reveals that allocations to the stock market reached a three-year high of 70% in March, with FINRA data showing a corresponding record high in margin debt (money investors borrow to buy securities).
The article cites comments by JPMorgan managing director Nikolaos Panigirtzoglou: “Retail investors have made a lot of money on many things including equities over the past year. At some point, given how high their equity allocation is, the risk is they decide to get out and take profits. That is effectively what happened before in 2000.”