Stocks are a way to invest in businesses that choose to publicly make their shares available to the public. Investors buy shares in companies such as Apple, Facebook or Google in order to become part owners of those businesses and to benefit from any increases in their share price or dividend payments. In the case of Apple, for example, each share is equal to a tiny piece of the company’s business and a part of its profits. Investing in stocks is not without risk, but over the long term (years), it can provide higher returns than many other investment options. That said, it’s important to determine your level of risk tolerance and financial goals before deciding to put money into stocks.
Stock prices fluctuate based on a variety of factors. For example, if a company’s stock prices are high, it may be because people think the company will continue to do well in the future. If the company then meets those expectations, it may see its stock prices rise even further. However, if the company doesn’t do well in the future, its stock price may decline. As a result, a stock investor can lose some or all of their original investment.
There are a number of different ways to classify and group stocks. One is by the size of a company, which is often referred to as its “capitalization.” Another is by sector. This means that companies are grouped together by industry, with categories such as health care and technology making up most of the sectors. The reason this is done is that companies in certain sectors tend to react to the economy and each other in predictable ways.
When you own common stock, you also have voting rights at shareholder meetings, and you can potentially receive stock dividend payments (a recurring payout from a company’s earnings). If a company is growing faster than expected, for example, its stock prices may rise, while if it falls on hard times, its stock prices could drop.
In general, stocks in mature, established companies have been shown to provide higher returns than those in younger, fast-growing firms. The reason is that older, more stable companies have been around for a while and are more likely to have solid profit histories.
In addition, those who want to invest in more volatile stocks are often looking for capital gains, which can be greater than dividend payments. That’s why investors in these stocks are referred to as growth investors. In contrast, more conservative investors may focus on receiving consistent income from dividends and may seek out stable, lower-risk stocks. These include stocks in consumer staples and utilities, which are less affected by economic conditions than other sectors.