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Retail Traders Are Now Parking Their Cash in Boring Stock ETFs

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(Bloomberg) -- Meme stock mania has cooled and now Crypto fever has, too. So what’s a young Reddit retail trader to do with his cash?

The answer, it would appear, is to park it in boring broad stock-market baskets.

In what’s becoming the modern-day equivalent of stockpiling cash when at a loss for where to invest -- at least for the growing ranks of newbies who embrace a win-big-or-lose-big mentality -- demand for exchange-traded funds that track large indexes like the S&P 500 and the tech-heavy Nasdaq 100 is soaring.

Over the past week alone, retail investors’ top bets pushed $434 million into State Street’s SPDR S&P 500 ETF Trust (SPY) and $235 million into Invesco’s QQQ Trust Series 1 (QQQ), according to Vanda Research.

“Large inflows into ETFs usually indicate that retail investors have little conviction in specific themes or niches,” said Eric Liu, co-founder of Vanda Research, a firm that tracks retail-trading flows in the U.S. “And so they just pile into large index trackers for lack of a better alternative.”

The U.S. stock market has been hit recently by growing inflation concerns which triggered massive selling of riskier stocks while cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin were whipsawed, with a basket of 37 so-called meme stocks tracked by Bloomberg struggling to pick up steam.

Recent purchases by retail investors show they’re even broadly souring on so-called FAANG stocks -- Facebook Inc., Apple Inc., Amazon Inc. and Google Inc. -- as well as Microsoft Inc. and Tesla Inc.

With the S&P 500 Index up more than 40% in the past year, leaving it hovering near a record, and the vaccine rollout allowing the re-oppening of offices, restaurants and bars, some individual investors appear to have decided to turn off their trading apps, put their money in a -- relatively speaking -- less risky space and enjoy the summer.

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