What Are Stocks, Shares,
and Equities?

Unlock the secrets of the stock market
from basic terminology to wealth generation strategies
in investing and trading.

What are stocks in simple words?

In the dynamic world of finance, stocks also known as shares, and equities. The stock market are one of the world's most well-known financial instruments. We often hear terms like stocks, shares, and equities. Sometimes, you may hear or see these terms used interchangeably. Let's untangle these concepts to make them easier to understand:

  1. Equity: Equity represents the amount of money that shareholders (owners) of a company would receive if all the assets were sold and all debts were paid off.  A shareholder is, therefore, essentially anyone who owns a piece of equity in a company. For example, let's say the company is worth $100, and you own $5 worth of equity. This means that your slice is 5% of the total. The more equity you have in a company, the bigger the slice of the company you own.
  2. Stocks: A stock represents your share of ownership in a company. When you buy stocks, you buy a piece of ownership in that company. Companies sell stocks to raise money, and people buy stocks hoping the company does well so their slices become more valuable.
  3. Shares: Shares are the specific pieces of stock you own and are indivisible. Using the equity example from above, if the company issues 100 shares of $1 each and you buy five shares, you would then own shares worth $5.   

Here's how they are related: When you buy shares, you are buying stocks, which means you are getting equity in a company, and so, owning shares = owning stocks = having equity in a company. 

Ready to learn more about stocks? Read our complete guide to understand better the stock market and how does the market work.

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The Process of Buying and Selling Stocks

IPOs and Their Role in the Market 

Imagine a world where ambitious companies are like ships setting sail on vast financial oceans, eager to explore new territories. In this world, Initial Public Offerings (IPOs) are the grand events where these vessels first hit the water, cheered on by investors and onlookers alike. IPOs mark the moment a private company goes public, offering its shares to the general public for the first time via a stock exchange, hence the name. 

This process is significant for several reasons. First, it allows companies to raise substantial capital quickly, fuelling their growth and plans. For investors, IPOs present an opportunity to be part of a company's journey from its early stages. Investors can begin buying company shares at the prevailing market price, driven by supply and demand. 

If potential investors think the company will perform well going forward, the demand for their stock increases, as does the price investors are willing to pay to own shares. The share price often increases dramatically at IPO time; however, there are also cases where the demand is low, so the price decreases.  

However, it's a celebratory moment and a strategic move. By going public, companies open themselves to greater scrutiny by shareholders and regulators because being a public company requires disclosing a lot of information to the public, including financial information. This shows the company's commitment and confidence in its business model.

Stocks are bought and sold on stock exchanges, such as the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) or Nasdaq. Investors can trade stocks through brokers or online trading platforms.

Why do companies choose to go public?

The reasons can vary and may include some of the following: 

  • Expansion – New markets, increase marketing, grow resources.
  • Innovation – Investment into R&D, use of new technologies and methods.
  • Pay off debt – Settle any debts.
  • Pay out Investors – Allow early investors, such as seed capital providers, to cash out or offer them additional equity in the form of shares.

As our ship sets sail, it's crucial to understand that while IPOs can be exciting, they also carry risks. 

Market volatility and fluctuating investor interest and sentiment can make the journey unpredictable. However, the potential rewards can be significant for those willing to navigate these waters, marking a new chapter in the company's story and the investor's portfolio.

Investing vs. Speculative Trading in Stock Market

Stock Brokerage and Investment Strategies

A stock brokerage plays a pivotal role for investors when navigating the complexities of the stock market. A stockbroker acts as an intermediary between the trader and the stock exchange and facilitates buying and selling public companies' stocks. 

This includes transactional duties but can also include other services, such as in-depth market analysis and tailored investment advice. The broker fully automates much of this using the Internet and modern online trading platforms, giving clients many self-serve features.  

Long-term Investing: Capital Appreciation and Dividends

Long-term investment strategies centre around your capital growth (appreciation) and potential profit share (dividends) payouts. Capital appreciation involves investing in companies with the potential to increase value over time. As the company's value grows, its share price increases, making your shares worth more money.

Dividend-focused investing targets companies that regularly distribute profits to shareholders, providing a regular income stream. This dual approach allows investors to balance short-term returns from dividends with the long-term growth of their capital investments.

A key feature of long-term investing is that the aim is on the long-term results and not on the short-term (daily, weekly, monthly) ups and downs that stock price will endure on its growth voyage. 

Speculative Trading: High Risk, High Reward

Conversely, speculative trading is suitable for those who thrive in high-risk environments and involves short-term predictions of stock price movements. This method requires understanding market trends, dynamics, impacting factors, and strict risk management. 

Speculative trading focuses on taking advantage of short-term price movements where profits can be earned by buying and selling stocks at the appropriate times. However, to achieve consistent success requires strong trading knowledge and skills. It also involves having a clear trading plan and using risk management tools like stop-loss and take-profit orders. While speculative trading offers the potential for significant returns in the short to medium term, it also comes with the risk of equally swift losses.

Investing vs. Speculative Trading Conclusion

Navigating the stock market requires a clear distinction between investing and speculative trading. Traders and investors must align their choices with financial goals, risk tolerance, and market understanding. Whether opting for the steadier path of strategic investing or the dynamic world of speculative trading, success hinges on a blend of knowledge, discipline, and risk management.

Risk Management Essentials for Stock Traders

Risks exist in everything we do, from driving a car to walking downstairs and, of course, in the financial space. Therefore, risk management is all about minimising losses when adverse events occur while not sacrificing potential profits. 

As we continue our voyage through the diverse landscape of investing and trading, it becomes clear that mastering the art of risk management is not a choice but a necessity. The financial markets constantly fluctuate based on diverse factors, from supply and demand to geopolitical events, news, regulations, and more. 

Whether you're a seasoned trader navigating the volatile currents of speculative trading or a long-term investor charting a more stable course, understanding and implementing robust risk management strategies is crucial. 

Risk management starts with understanding your risk tolerance, establishing how much risk you're comfortable taking, and aligning your investment strategy accordingly. This self-awareness is the foundation for all other risk management strategies.

Diversification is one of the most effective tools in your risk management arsenal. By spreading your investments across various assets, sectors, or geographies, you reduce the impact of a single non-performing investment within your overall portfolio. It's the investment equivalent of not putting all your eggs in one basket.

In leveraged trading, the stakes are even higher because you are trading with “borrowed funds” from the broker. In these cases, employing stop-loss orders is an absolute necessity. 

A stop-loss order is an automatic instruction to sell an asset when its price falls to a certain level, helping to limit potential losses. Similarly, placing a take-profit order ensures you take advantage of the opportunity to cash in on gains before the market turns.

Another critical aspect of risk management is continuous education and staying informed. The market is dynamic, and staying abreast of economic news, market trends, and financial reports can help you make more informed decisions.

Lastly, regular portfolio reviews are crucial. This practice allows you to adjust your strategies, rebalance your investments, and ensure that your portfolio aligns with your financial goals and changing market conditions.

In essence, risk management is a skill that, when mastered, empowers investors and traders to navigate the financial markets with confidence, turning potential threats into manageable challenges.

Leveraged Stock Trading via Derivatives

As we delve deeper into speculative trading, we encounter the world of leveraged derivatives. 

Derivatives – These are financial instruments which are based on the value of an underlying asset that can be traded. Among these instruments, Contracts for Difference (CFDs) stand out as a popular choice for traders. CFDs are essentially agreements between a trader and a broker to exchange the difference in the price of a security or asset from when the contract is opened to when it is closed. 

Leverage allows traders to gain more significant market exposure with relatively minor initial capital. The broker provides the additional capital (leverage) for the trader to manage a more substantial trade position. This leverage amplifies potential profits and losses, making it a double-edged sword that requires careful handling.

Here's how it works: Suppose you have $1,000 to trade with, believe that the stock of Company X will rise, and the current cost per share is $100. Instead of purchasing the stock outright and getting only ten shares, you open a leveraged CFD position of 10:1. You can now control a position worth $10,000 ($1,000 x 10) with only your initial $1,000. 

If the stock price increases, you can close your position at a higher price, profiting from the difference between the amount you bought and sold for. Conversely, if the price falls, you'll incur a loss. The magnified nature of this trade means that even small market movements can significantly impact your position.

While the prospect of amplified returns is enticing, it's crucial to understand the risks. The leverage that allows for significant gains can also lead to substantial losses, often exceeding the initial investment amount. Therefore, employing strict risk management strategies, such as setting stop-loss orders and only investing funds you can afford to lose, becomes even more critical.

It's also vital to conduct thorough research and understand the underlying assets you're trading in. Knowing market trends, company performance, and economic factors all assist in making better trading decisions.

In summary, while trading with leveraged derivatives like CFDs offers the potential for considerable returns, it demands a high level of understanding, discipline, and risk management. As with all high-reward strategies, the journey requires caution, knowledge, and a steady hand.

Why Trade Stocks with AvaTrade

Embarking on your trading journey requires a reliable and resourceful partner, and AvaTrade stands out as a leading choice for traders across the globe. Offering a unique combination of security, knowledge, and cutting-edge technology, AvaTrade ensures that your trading experience is both rewarding and enriching. Here's why AvaTrade is the ideal choice for your stock trading endeavours:

  • International Regulation: AvaTrade is rigorously regulated globally, ensuring a safe and trustworthy trading environment.  
  • Educational Resources: Our Education section offers a wealth of educational materials to enhance your trading knowledge and skills. Deepen your market knowledge with free webinars, AvaAcademy courses, and other educational materials.  
  • Advanced Trading Platforms: Benefit from intuitive and innovative trading platforms that simplify and optimise your trading experience. Choose MT4, MT5, and WebTrader, or go mobile with the AvaTrade app.  
  • Exclusive Trading Resources: Access live market analysis from Trading Central. Use our proprietary AvaProtect risk management solution and enjoy actionable in-platform trading signals.   
  • Award-Winning Customer Support: Receive top-tier support, recognised for its excellence, to assist you at every step of your trading journey.

Ready to improve your trading? Read our comprehensive guides to sharpen your knowledge and refine your strategies.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are Stocks, Shares, and Equities?

Stocks, shares, and equities all represent units of ownership in a company. While often used interchangeably, the units of ’stock’ are referred to as ‘shares’ and represent ownership units in a specific company. ‘Equity’ refers to the total ownership stake in a company. Shareholders may receive dividend payments and have voting rights, depending on the type of shares owned.

What is the Difference Between Investing and Trading Stocks?

Investing involves buying and holding stocks for the long term to benefit from capital appreciation and possible dividends. On the other hand, trading involves speculating on short-term price movements of stocks, often facilitated by financial derivative instruments like CFDs and spread bets. Trading can be done in shorter time frames, from minutes to months.

What are CFDs, and How Do They Work in Stock Trading?

CFDs (Contracts for Difference) are derivatives that allow traders to speculate on stock price movements without owning them. Traders can ‘buy’ (go long) if they anticipate a price increase or ‘sell’ (go short) for a price decrease. CFDs are leveraged products, meaning traders can control a larger position with a small deposit, amplifying both potential profits and losses.

How Can I Manage Risks in Stock Trading and Investing?

Risk management involves diversifying your portfolio, setting clear investment or trading goals, and using tools like stop-loss orders to limit potential losses. For traders, especially those using leverage, it’s crucial to have a well-defined strategy, stay informed about market trends, and be prepared to adjust positions based on market conditions.

Can I Profit from Falling Stock Prices?

Yes, traders can speculate on falling stock prices through trading strategies like short selling or using derivatives like CFDs. By ‘selling’ a stock CFD, for example, a trader can profit if the stock’s price falls but will incur a loss if the price rises. Understanding the risks associated with these strategies and employing risk management techniques is essential.