Warning: ‘Spur Of The Moment’ Mobile Traders Gaining Confidence


If you’re looking for warning signs that the stock market is due for drop, retail investors convinced of their own prowess is a good one. But even day traders keep with the times, and according to Fidelity’s Mobile Money Study more and more of them are trading on mobile apps, which they believe gives them some sort of edge over the competition.

“The growing momentum for mobile trading use is not only a matter of added convenience, but one of added confidence, too,” says the study. “For example, 69 percent of those who trade with their mobile apps say they feel it gives them an advantage over investors who do not.”

Mobile traders believe they are outperforming

Frankly, confidence and convenience sounds like a recipe for disaster for retail investors who will just as conveniently sell into a bear market when things head south, racking up fees in the meantime. But of course users don’t see it that way because they believe the strategy is working. Fidelity touts the fact that 41% of frequent financial app users says they have an ROI of 20% over the last 12 months, but that’s not actually terribly impressive. As a benchmark, the S&P 500 is up 14.85% over the last 12 months. Take any large sample of stock pickers, select for the 41% best performing portfolios, and you’re going to get some impressive numbers no matter what apps are on their phone. The better question is what happens to those numbers over a full business cycle.

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Day traders in the late 90s also believed they were crushing the market, and we all know how that turned out.

‘Spur of the moment’ mobile traders

To be fair, there are times when financial apps make sense. Reading analyst reports (44% of respondents), paying bills (53%), and checking account balances (71%) all seem like reasonable things to do in front of the TV (77%) or on the john (39%). Making trades (41%) while someone else is teeing off (10%) seems much less responsible.

“Our survey found that more than one third of mobile traders make trade decisions on the spur of the moment, capitalizing on investing opportunities from their screen, anywhere,” says Velia M. Carboni, senior vice president, mobile channel at Fidelity.

In the age of Twitter, it was only a matter of time before people were given tools to make poorly thought out trades on a moment’s notice, just don’t expect us to celebrate it.