Here are the top 10 stocks bought by retail traders in 2021

  • Apple was the most-purchased stock by retail investors in 2021, according to Vanda Research. 
  • AMC and Alibaba were the only two consumer services sector companies to make the tech-dominated list  
  • The list is a mix of tech heavyweights and meme stocks but GameStop missed the cut. 

This year will stand out as one of major influence by retail investors on Wall Street, marked by the rally in so-called meme stocks that kicked off 2021 as investors banded together to fend off hedge funds shorting stocks including AMC and GameStop. 

Here are the Top 10 stocks purchased by retail investors during 2021, according to Vanda Research. The company’s research tool tracks activity among such investors in more than 9,000 stocks and ETFs listed in the US. 

1) Apple (AAPL)

Net purchases: $11.91 billion
Year-to-performance: up 29%

Apple iPhone 13 are pictured at an Apple Store

The tech behemoth is moving closer to hitting a $3 trillion market capitalization, which would be the first company in the world to reach that milestone. Ongoing global supply-chain problems have hurt iPhone production but the stock has managed to forge ahead. The stock has two forces in its corner: a ‘cult following’ among amateur investors and the company’s $90 billion share buyback program, Vanda said earlier this month. 

2) Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) 

Net purchases: $7.39 billion 
Year-to-date performance: up 50%

A screenshot from AMD's website showing embedded graphics products
A screenshot from AMD’s website showing embedded graphics products amd chips tech

The stock was off its highs of the year but it had a monster rally of nearly 40% during November. Investors propelled it higher after the chipmaker raised its 2021 revenue outlook and beat third-quarter expectations.

3) NIO

Net purchases: $6.8 billion 
Year-to-date performance: down 38%

Nio lineup
The Nio lineup.


The Chinese electric vehicle maker recently has turned in record delivery figures that helped the stock price to all-time highs. But the stock has also run lower alongside other US-listed shares of Chinese companies in the wake of news Beijing-based ride-hailing company Didi’s delisting less than six months after its US debut.

4) AMC Entertainment (AMC)

Net purchases: $4.07 billion 
Year-to-date performance: up 1,273%

2019 American Cinematheque Award - Arrivals - Beverly Hills, California, U.S., November 8, 2019 - Adam Aron.
AMC CEO Adam Aron

The movie-theater chain has been on a wild ride as part of the wider focus on meme stocks driven by retail investors this year. The company was hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic but movie screens are back open and AMC CEO Adam Aron has kept engagement with retail investors alive in his communication on Twitter.

5) Palantir (PLTR)

Net purchases: $3.6 billion 
Year-to-date performance: down 19%

Palantir 1
Palantir logo on the New York Stock Exchange.

The data-mining company with defense contracts is one of the most-mentioned stocks among investors in the WallStreetBets community. As the year comes to a close, the company reportedly said it’s working on shifting its UK metadata processing out of the US as privacy regulations tighten worldwide. 

6) Verizon (VZ)

Net purchases: $3.07 billion 
Year-to-date performance: down 9.5%

THOR vehicle prototype
THOR vehicle prototype

Shares of Verizon like other telecom stocks are lower this year but the largest mobile carrier in the US did turn in better-than-expected earnings for the third quarter. 

7) Microsoft (MSFT) 

Net purchases: $2.89 billion 
Year-to-date performance: up 46%

Satya Nadella speaks in front of the image of a cell phone.
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.

The software maker has been among big winners during the coronavirus pandemic, with its stock price rising on the success of its Azure cloud business and as people rely more heavily on its suite of services in the shift to remote work. 

8) Tesla (TSLA) 

Net purchases: $2.74 billion 
Year-to-date performance: up 32%

Tesla CEO Elon Musk in a black suit walks on stage in front of an image of a Model Y vehicle
Tesla CEO Elon Musk walks in front of a Model Y image in Shanghai.

Delivery of Tesla cars has been on the rise this year but much focus lately has been on CEO Elon Musk who has been selling shares in a bid to reduce his tax liability. 

9) Nvidia (NVDA)

Net purchases: $2.58 billion 
Year-to-date performance: up 113%

A screenshot of Nvidia's series of GEFORCE RTX 30 graphic cards
A screenshot of Nvidia’s series of GEFORCE RTX 30 graphic cards NVDA graphics chips tech

Global supply-chain issues have pressured Nvidia’s shares during the year but blowout earnings result for the GPU manufacturer in the second quarter have aided overall gains. The company has also broadcast its vision for the metaverse and other gaming-related projects. 

10) Alibaba (BABA) 

Net purchases: $2.44 billion 
Year-to-date performance: down 49%

alibaba jack ma NYSE
Alibaba went public on the NYSE in 2014.

Shares of Chinese retail heavyweight have taken a hit largely as the Chinese government imposed regulatory crackdowns on a range of industries and as founder Jack Ma has been under scrutiny in Beijing. 

As for ETFs, retail traders piled into funds tracking the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq 100. The top 10 most traded ETFs this year were: SPY, QQQ, TQQQ, LQD, TNA, IWM, TIP, SPXL, VTI and EMB.