Robinhood day traders may be the saviours of the stock market

Linda J. Dodson

It is just one sign of the boom. More traditional American brokers have scrapped fees as well, and signed up millions of new customers. In this country, Hargreaves Lansdown, the most successful platform for private investors, has reported a surge in new accounts (188,000 in the last year).

So have German platforms. Malaysia is even considering controls on trading to dampen down the investment craze that has pushed its index to record highs. In the City and on Wall Street plenty of people will be tempted to agree with the Malaysians.

Private investors have long been regarded as a nuisance at best, and, at worst, a danger both to themselves and to the rest of us. We have started to see all the same old prejudices as a new generation have waded into the market. They are already starting to be blamed for rising volatility. They are getting the rap for the crazy valuations of a few of their favourite tech stocks.

Even a few suicides have been pinned on day trading after losses have been racked up. We can expect to hear a lot more about that if the upsurge of interest in investment continues.

Of course, we can understand why market professionals don’t like private investors. They just clutter up the market, and they don’t generate much money. Indeed, their preference for free trading squeezes margins.

Neither, on the whole, do big companies. They are just a bother. Life is much easier if the chief executive can keep the shareholders happy over a discreet lunch. You can do that with half a dozen big institutions. With thousands of day traders, forget it. But we should ignore all that.

The new generation of traders are the best thing to happen to the market in years. First, they are bringing fresh money and, perhaps more importantly, people into the market. With the decline of private investment, with the closure of final salary pension schemes linked to the market, and falling levels of home ownership, millenials have increasingly been locked out of the main ways free market capitalism creates wealth.

But as Amazon and Apple soar in value, it is not just going to be a few hedge funds and institutions that make a lot of money. It will be the millions of small investors, and mainly younger ones, who have invested as well. Is that a bad thing? Of course not.

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