Retail investors are buying into bearish energy stocks even as recession fears and concerns about faltering demand keep them down, according to data from Bank of America. Energy remains the only S&P 500 sector in the green this year, with a gain of about 32%. But the industry is 20% below the multi-year high it hit on June 8. The downturn has been followed by a related drop in oil prices. West Texas Intermediate crude futures, the benchmark for US oil, fell more than 10% in July and are on track for their worst month of 2022. Part of the recent weakness has been due to concerns. that the global economy will continue to slow down, excess demand for oil and petroleum products will dry up. However, during the year WTI was up 27% as the market reacted to demand recovering from the Covid lockdown plus tight supply. Despite the recent weakness in energy stocks, retail investors are flocking to the market. Bank of America said Tuesday that over the past two weeks, purchases of energy stocks by its retail customers have been near record levels. Analysts led by Jill Carey Hall noted that weekly net buying during that period was the third- and fourth-largest weekly net buying in corporate data from 2008. The Bank of America added that cash flows into specific energy stocks have outstripped energy conversions. – exchange fund. Separate data from Vanda Research, which also tracks activity from retail investors, provides insight into what exactly is being bought. Occidental was the most bought stock, with shares worth $190.7 million. Followed by Exxon and Devon with $177.3 million and $65.6 million purchased. “Retail investors have remained steady buying through the recent downturn in the sector,” said Lucas Mantle, data science analyst at Vanda Research. However, he noted that buying activity was still significantly lower than buying activity in February and March as “the rebound in energy names saw retail investors become more active. strong buying across the industry.” – Michael Bloom of CNBC contributed reporting.