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Nearly Half of Investors Sold Stock in March; Most Now Regret It: Survey

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The onset of the coronavirus pandemic in mid-March wreaked havoc on the U.S. economy and sent a shudder through the investing public.

In reaction, 42% of investors in a new survey sold at least one stock and 24% sold all their holdings, MagnifyMoney reported this week.

Men were much likelier than women to sell at least one stock — 56% and 19% did so, respectively — as were younger investors. Sixty-four percent of Gen Xers and 43% of millennials sold stocks, while only 10% of baby boomers did so.

By far, the biggest reason investors sold stocks was that they wanted to have cash on hand in the event of a recession. Others worried about a stock market crash or wanted to reinvest in stocks that would weather the pandemic better.

Sixty-six percent of men said they sold stock in order to have cash on hand in case of recession, while 47% of women did so out of fear of a crash. Boomers’ stock selling appeared to have more to do with retirement considerations than with the pandemic, according to the survey.

The upshot of this selling? Sixty-nine percent of investors who sold stock at the beginning of the pandemic said they greatly regretted their decision to sell, while 19% said they were somewhat regretful.

MagnifyMoney said that regret was warranted, as the stock market rebounded in record time from the rock-bottom lows it had reached at the beginning of the crisis.

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Qualtrics conducted the survey online in early September among 997 boomer, Gen X and millennial Americans with at least one investment account. A smattering of responses from Gen Z and investors 75 and older was not large enough to be included in the sample.

Stock Market Losses

In the half year since the pandemic struck, 48% of investors surveyed said they had lost money after the market plummeted, 29% had made money and 23% had broken even.

The survey identified one clear pattern: Investors were checking their portfolio’s performance much more frequently during the pandemic than before. Forty-eight percent of survey participants said they were looking at their portfolios more now than they did prior to March, while only 16% were doing so less.

The survey findings suggest that those who frequently look at their portfolios, particularly men and younger investors, are more inclined to buy or sell stock, potentially in reaction to whichever way the market is moving.

MagnifyMoney noted that this behavior ignores many experts’ recommendation against frequent trading, and instead to treat the portfolio as one would one’s face during COVID-19 — try not to touch it too much.

What Investors Are Buying

According to the survey, 56% of consumers have purchased at least one new stock in the last few months, specifically because of the pandemic:

  • Tech stocks (such as Zoom or Slack) – 58%
  • Health care stocks (like Pfizer or Biogen) – 33%
  • Retail stocks (such as Amazon or Walmart) – 26%

In general, men and Gen Xers were most likely to buy stock because of the coronavirus pandemic, the survey found.

As to investment selections, men were likelier to purchase tech stocks, while women opted for health care stocks. Millennials and Gen Xers were more likely to invest in tech stocks, while boomers were likelier to buy either health care stocks or mutual funds or exchange-traded funds.