Don't you miss the days when financial services stocks were sleepy investments?

Take a look at the five most actively traded stocks on the New York Stock Exchange last week, by share volume. Tell me if you can spot where traders were at their most frenetic.


Volume (in hundreds)


Citigroup (NYSE:C)



Bank of America (NYSE:BAC)



General Electric (NYSE:GE)



Wells Fargo (NYSE:WFC)



JPMorgan Chase (NYSE:JPM)



Source: Barron's.

Gee, four bank stocks and a conglomerate that happens to rely heavily on its financial-services arm.

One can always argue that volatility was going to be heavy in this space. Citigroup and Bank of America shed nearly half of their values -- off 48% and 45% respectively -- as their fundamentals continue to crumble and their panhandling efforts intensify.

However, Citigroup and Bank of America were the gold and bronze medalists, respectively, in share volume the previous week, too.

Who is kicking in with all of this trading volume? Is everyone suddenly as knowledgeable about the financial services sector as Morgan Housel? I doubt it. I'm guessing most of the action is coming from speculators, playing these stocks long or short as grander proxies for Armageddon or anti-Armageddon.

It certainly doesn't slow down the mob to find Citigroup and Bank of America trading in single digits, making it easy to pick up a round lot and ride the waves. Just as low-priced stocks with plenty of volatility -- like Lucent and Sirius XM Radio (NASDAQ:SIRI) -- have been popular trades in the past, folks will be feverishly flipping bank stocks as they did with Pokemon cards, Beanie Babies, and baseball cards in the past.

I refuse to play that game. It's not that I think I'm better than those who do. In fact, it's an admission that I'm not. Until I feel that I have an edge on the market in dissecting a particular sector, I'm just going to watch this from the cheap seats as a spectator.

Good luck out there, bank stock speculators, or -- as I'll refer to you -- bankulators. I know you'll be at it again this week, too.

Some of Housel's more recent research:

JPMorgan Chase is a Motley Fool Income Investor recommendation. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz has no problem being the banker in Monopoly, but he does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this story. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.