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The stocks millennials love to buy

Workers at Tesla's assembly plant in Fremont, California.
Noah Berger | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Workers at Tesla's assembly plant in Fremont, California.

Millennials have expensive tastes when it comes to stocks.

Among their favorites is Tesla, which has a $200 plus market price, according to a TD Ameritrade study.

Investors in their parents' and grandparents' age bracket — baby boomers and beyond — like Ford, trading at about $12.50 a share. Investors over age 70 also tend to stick with dividend-paying blue-chips — AT&T and GE. Both trade at less than $50 a share.

So although the different generations share the same six favorite stock picks, including Apple, a portfolio of millennials' 10 most-bought stocks had an average share price of about $146 on Wednesday, higher than a similar portfolio for the other age groups studied.

TD Ameritrade studied the portfolios and trading activity in 6 million funded client accounts for the first six months of this year.

10 most-traded and most-bought stocks in the first half of 2016


One argument for paying up for Elon Musk's automaker is the clean energy play.

"That's a major theme with young people," said Nicole Sherrod, managing director of trading at TD Ameritrade. She added that college students almost always ask her about investing in companies with responsible business practices. "I think we're only going to see more and more of that going forward," she said.

Boomers also like electric cars, to an extent. Tesla was the 10th most-traded stock for that age group but didn't make the list of top 10 stocks bought.

The electric car maker is ninth on the millennials' top-traded list and 10th most-bought.

Generation X, now in their late 30s and 40s, didn't like car stocks as much. One of their favorite stocks to buy and trade was Whiting Petroleum, a highly volatile energy exploration and production company that's up 90 percent over the last six months but down more than 50 percent over the last year.

Gen Xers were also the only age category that loaded up on Twitter as one of the top 10 holdings. The stock has fallen well below its initial public offering of $26 a share.

Another millennial favorite is Disney, at $94 a share, while the cheapest stock in their top-10 portfolio is the $6 Chesapeake Energy.

While enthusiastic about Tesla and sustainability, millennials were more fascinated by the hydraulic fracking company than their elders. The stock was the third most-traded and bought for the younger age category, but didn't make the top 10 list for senior citizens. Chesapeake was toward the bottom of the top 10 list for Gen X and baby boomers.

Oil's recovery this year has made energy an overall favorite this year among investors, Sherrod said. For Chesapeake in particular, she said investors were looking for a turnaround story and a momentum play.

Shares of Chesapeake are more than 40 percent higher this year as oil prices have recovered and the company has worked to refinance its debt.

"I think there are some names that have been creeping into this list that have been tremendous media stories this year," Sherrod said.

So who won out on returns?

At least over the last six months, the seniors came out ahead. Everyone under age 70 liked buying shares of Valeant Pharmaceuticals, despite the scrutiny over its accounting practices. That cost investors a 55 percent decline over the last 6 months.

But for seniors, the only stock in their top 10 purchase list with a six-month negative return is Gilead Sciences. That stock lost just over 10 percent.