Photo: David Becker/AFP via Getty Images

Online brokerages have seen a record number of new accounts opened this year as so-called mom and pop retail investors look to buy the dips and cash in on the market's late February selloff.

What's happening: "The rush of retail investors into U.S. equities is at least partly a function of a world with no casinos, no sports betting to speak of (horses and ping-pong aside), and little to do outside the home," DataTrek Research co-founder Jessica Rabe points out in a note to clients.

  • Retail traders, especially those using the stock trading app Robinhood, have shown unusual buying patterns, pursuing cheap and particularly volatile stocks, she observes.

By the numbers: "TD Ameritrade said last week that retail clients opened a record 608,000 new funded accounts in the quarter ended March 31, with more than two-thirds of those opened in March," WSJ reports.

  • "E*Trade saw a net gain of 363,000 accounts in the quarter — a company record — around 90% of which were retail."
  • "Charles Schwab Corp. reported a record 609,000 new brokerage accounts in the quarter, including individuals’ self-directed accounts and those managed by financial advisers."

Go deeper: Investment professionals are selling while mom and pop buy the coronavirus dip

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Data: The Block; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios

Small investors are playing a larger role in the stock market than at any time this century.

The big picture: Whatever the reason for small investors' rise — lots of free time thanks to the pandemic, zero-dollar commissions, addictive and gamified apps, enticing volatility — retail investors have become a driving force behind many individual stocks and maybe even the market as a whole.