First of all, what is a share? What are you paying for, and what are you getting in return when purchasing a “stock”? How does one determine which stocks to invest in?
When one buys a company’s stock, they actually become a part owner of the company. The “share” or “stock” is called such because all share-holders are investing their money to buy a piece of ownership in the company; and in return believe that the company will use the invested money effectively to perform well in it’s particular industry. Depending on how a company allocates the money brought in by investors, and many other variables, the company’s value will either increase or decrease. As a company’s value increases or decreases, so will the value of its shares. As a stock appreciates in value, one can choose to sell their stock for a profit (known as stock appreciation). A second way to profit from investing in a stock is the issuance of dividends. Dividends are simply the sharing of profits by a company to its investors.
With that being said, there are a few key things to look at when choosing a stock to invest in.
1. Performance history of the stock
With today’s technology, information on every publicly traded company is readily available. There are years of information on stocks traded today which will help in deciding which are good investments and those which are not. Looking at a stocks trading price over time can be indicative of its future performance, especially when compared to the market overall.
2. Stock Volatility
For example, if a particular stock has consistently outperformed the market by decreasing less than, or even increasing, when the market average price is decreasing, odds are that the stock will continue to outperform the market in the future. The measure of how drastically a stock’s price changes up or down, especially when compared to the market as a whole, is known as volatility. A safer investment is in a stock with less volatility.
3. P/E ratios
The standard measurement of a stocks value is the P/E ratio, which stands for price to earnings. To calculate this ratio, one must take the price of the stock and divide it by the company’s annual net income. For example, a company with a stock price of $100 and net income per share of $5 will have a P/E ratio of $20; which is the recent average market P/E of United States stocks and slightly higher than the long-term average of Australian stocks.
Typically, stocks with a higher P/E ratio than the market average are considered expensive, while the stocks with a lower ratio are considered cheap. Either type can be considered a “good investment”, depending on how a person prefers to invest. The stocks considered expensive could be a company with a high stock price and low earnings, but may be growing very rapidly and will be increasing in value in the future. Conversely, a stock that may appear cheap because of a lower price or higher earnings per share could appear as such because many believe that a company’s future earnings will be less than they presently are; making what appears to be a good investment what is known as a value trap.
The cardinal rule for investing is to make the best decision with the information one has at the time. Through stock information now available online and the use of financial ratios, especially the P/E ratio, everyone is capable of investing intelligently in today’s markets.
10thousandgirl would like to thank Aaron Cunningham, for writing this article.