Individual Investors Ramp Up Bets on Tech Stocks


Technology stocks have taken a beating this year. Many individual investors have used it as an opportunity to double down.

The Nasdaq Composite Index—home to the big tech stocks that propelled the market’s decadelong rally—has fallen 21% in 2022. Shares of Amazon.com Inc.

AMZN 10.36%

and the parents of Google and Facebook META -1.01%

have suffered double-digit declines as well, stung by higher interest rates and sour attitudes about their growth prospects.

Yet many of those stocks remain the most popular among individual investors who say they are confident in a rebound and expect the companies to continue powering the economy.

In late July, purchases by individual investors of a basket of popular tech stocks hit the highest level since at least 2014, according to data from Vanda Research. The basket includes the FAANG stocks—Facebook parent Meta Platforms Inc., Amazon, Apple Inc.

AAPL 3.28%

Netflix Inc.

and Google parent Alphabet Inc.

GOOG 1.79%

—along with a handful of others like Tesla Inc.

and Microsoft Corp.

Meanwhile, Apple, chip company Advanced Micro Devices Inc.

and the tech-heavy Invesco QQQ Trust exchange-traded fund have remained among the most popular individual bets since 2020.

Interest in risky and leveraged funds tied to tech and stocks like Nvidia Corp.

has also swelled, a sign that investors have stepped in to play the wild swings in the shares.

It has been a fruitful bet for many. Tech stocks have been on the rebound of late, partly on investor hopes for a slower path of interest-rate increases in the months ahead. The Nasdaq gained 12% in July, its best month since April 2020, outperforming the broader S&P 500, which rose 9.1%.

Individual investor Jerry Lee says: ‘The market is severely undervaluing how much tech can actually play into our lives.’


Photo:

Peggy Chen

“I’m extremely bullish on tech,” said Jerry Lee, a 27-year-old investor in New York who co-founded a startup that helps people find jobs. “The market is severely undervaluing how much tech can actually play into our lives.”

In coming days, investors will be parsing earnings reports from companies such as AMD and PayPal Holdings Inc.

for more clues about the market’s trajectory. Data on manufacturing and the jobs market are also on tap.

mr. Lee said he recently stashed cash into a technology-focused fund that counts Apple and Nvidia among its biggest holdings, after years of pouring money into broad-based index funds. His experience working at firms such as Google has made him optimistic about the sector’s future, he said.

Gabe Fisher holds stock in Meta Platforms, Amazon and Alphabet.


Photo:

Ethan Kaplan

Even last week when many of the industry’s leaders, including Apple, Amazon and Alphabet, warned their growth is slowing, investors pushed the stocks higher and expressed confidence in the ability of the companies to withstand an uncertain economy. Apple logged its best month since August 2020, while Amazon finished its best month since October 2009, helped by a 10% jump in its shares on Friday alone.

Many investors also pounced on the tumble in shares of Facebook’s parent Meta Platforms. The stock was the top buy among individual investors on the Fidelity brokerage Thursday when it fell 5.2% in the wake of the social-media giant’s first-ever revenue drop. Tesla, Ford Motor Co.

and leveraged exchange-traded funds tracking the tech-heavy Nasdaq-100 index were also widely traded that day.

Gabe Fisher, a 23-year-old investor near San Francisco, said he is holding on to stocks like Meta, Amazon and Alphabet.

“Even if these companies never grow at as fast of a pace, they’re still companies that are so relevant and so prevalent that I’m going to hold on to them,” Mr. Fisher said.

He said he also has a small position in Cathie Wood’s ARK Innovation Exchange-Traded Fund that he doesn’t plan to sell soon, even though the fund has lost more than half of its value this year.

Other investors have been turning to riskier corners of the market. Leveraged exchange-traded funds tracking tech have been the third- and fourth-most-popular ETFs for individual investors to buy this year, behind funds tracking the S&P 500 and Nasdaq-100 indexes. These funds allow investors to make turbocharged bets on the market and can double or triple the daily return of a stock or index.

Many individual investors have also turned to the options market to bet on tech. Bullish bets that would pay out if Tesla shares rose have been among the most widely traded in the options market, according to Vanda. Individual traders have spent more on Tesla call options on an average day this year than on Amazon, Nvidia and options tied to the Invesco QQQ Trust combined, according to Vanda. The firm analyzed the average premium spent on options that are out-of-the-money, or far from where the shares are currently trading.

Jeff Durbin, a 59-year-old investor based in Naples, Fla., said he regrets missing out on buying big tech stocks decades ago.

He has scooped up shares of companies like artificial intelligence firm Upstart Holdings Inc.

and Shopify Inc.

SHOP -3.01%

—and hung on despite their sharp swings. Shopify, for example, dropped 14% in a single session last week as it said it would cut about 10% of its global workforce. It’s painful, but I missed out on things like Amazon and Netflix when they were cheap,” Mr. Durbin said. “Who is going to be the Amazon and Apple 20 years from now?”

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