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What are stocks?

Plain and simple, a stock is a share in the ownership of a company. A stock represents a claim on the company's assets and earnings. As you acquire more stocks, your ownership stake in the company becomes greater. Note: Some times different words like shares, equity, stocks etc. are used. All these words mean the same thing.

So what does ownership of a company give you?


Holding a company's stock means that you are one of the many owners (shareholders) of a company and, as such, you have a claim to everything the company owns. This means that technically you own a tiny little piece of all the furniture, every trademark, and every contract of the company. As an owner, you are entitled to your share of the company's earnings as well. These earnings will be given to you. These earnings are called dividends and are given to the shareholders from time to time. A stock is represented by a "stock certificate". This is a piece of paper that is proof of your ownership. However, now-a-days you could also have a demat account. This means that there will be no stock certificates. Everything will be done though the computer electronically. Selling and buying stocks can be done just by a few clicks. Being a shareholder of a public company does not mean you have a say in the day-to-day running of the business. Instead, one vote per share to elect the board of directors of the company at annual meetings is all you can do. For instance, being a Microsoft shareholder doesn't mean you can call up Bill Gates and tell him how you think the company should be run. The management of the company is supposed to increase the value of the firm for shareholders. If this doesn't happen, the shareholders can vote to have the management removed. In reality, individual investors like you and I don't own enough shares to have a material influence on the company. It's really the big boys like large institutional investors and billionaire entrepreneurs who make the decisions. For ordinary shareholders, not being able to manage the company isn't such a big deal. After all, the idea is that you don't want to have to work to make money, right? The importance of being a shareholder is that you are entitled to a portion of the companys profits and have a claim on assets.

Profits are sometimes paid out in the form of dividends as mentioned earlier. The more shares you own, the larger the portion of the profits you get. Your claim on assets is only relevant if a company goes bankrupt. In case of liquidation, you'll receive what's left after all the creditors have been paid. Another extremely important feature of stock is "limited liability", which means that, as an owner of a stock, you are "not personally liable" if the company is not able to pay its debts. In other legal structures such as partnerships, if the partnership firm goes bankrupt the creditors can come after the partners personally and sell off their house, car, furniture, etc. Owning stock means that, no matter what happens to the company, the maximum value you can lose is the value of your stocks. Even if a company of which you are a shareholder goes bankrupt, you can never lose your personal assets.

Why does a company issue stocks?


Why would the founders share the profits with thousands of people when they could keep profits to themselves? The reason is that at some point every company needs to "raise money". To do this, companies can either borrow it from somebody or raise it by selling part of the company, which is known as issuing stock. A company can borrow by taking a loan from a bank or by issuing bonds. Both methods come under "debt financing". On the other hand, issuing stock is called equity financing. Issuing stock is advantageous for the company because it does not require the company to pay back the money or make interest payments along the way. All that the shareholders get in return for their money is the hope that the shares will someday be worth more than what they paid for them. The first sale of a stock, which is issued by the private company itself, is called the initial public offering (IPO). It is important that you understand the distinction between a company financing through debt and financing through equity. When you buy a debt investment such as a bond, you are guaranteed the return of your money (the principal) along with promised interest payments. This isn't the case with an equity investment. By becoming an owner, you assume the risk of the company not being successful - just as a small business owner isn't guaranteed a return, neither is a shareholder. Shareholders earn a lot if a company is successful, but

they also stand to lose their entire investment if the company isn't successful.

Its a tricky game!


Note that: There are no guarantees when it comes to individual stocks. Some companies pay out dividends, but many others do not. And there is no obligation to pay out dividends. Without dividends, an investor can make money on a stock only through its appreciation of the stock price in the open market. On the downside, any stock may go bankrupt, in which case your investment is worth nothing.

What makes stock prices go "up" and "down"?


Stock prices change every day because of market forces. By this we mean that stock prices change because of supply and demand. If more people want to buy a stock (demand) than sell it (supply), then the price moves up! Conversely, if more people wanted to sell a stock than buy it, there would be greater supply than demand, and the price would fall. (Basics of economics!) Understanding supply and demand is easy. What is difficult to understand is what makes people like a particular stock and dislike another stock. If you understand this, you will know what people are buying and what people are selling. If you know this you will know what prices go up and what prices go down! To figure out the likes and dislikes of people, you have to figure out what news is positive for a company and what news is negative and how any news about a company will be interpreted by the people. The most important factor that affects the value of a company is its earnings. Earnings are the profit a company makes, and in the long run no company can survive without them. It makes sense when you think about it. If a company never makes money, it isn't going to stay in business. Public companies are required to report their earnings four times a year (once each quarter). Dalal Street watches with great attention at these times, which are referred to as earnings seasons. The reason behind this is that analysts base their future value of a company on their earnings projection.

If a company's results are better than expected, the price jumps up. If a company's results disappoint and are worse than expected, then the price will fall. Of course, it's not just earnings that can change the feeling people have about a stock. It would be a rather simple world if this were the case! During the dotcom bubble, for example, the stock price of dozens of internet companies rose without ever making even the smallest profit. As we all know, these high stock prices did not hold, and most internet companies saw their values shrink to a fraction of their highs. Still, this fact demonstrates that there are factors other than current earnings that influence stocks. So, what are "all the factors" that affect the stocks price? The best answer is that nobody really knows for sure. Some believe that it isn't possible to predict how stock prices will change, while others think that by drawing charts and looking at past price movements, you can determine when to buy and sell. The only thing we do know is that stocks are volatile and can change in price very very rapidly. Just remember this: At the most fundamental level, supply and demand in the market determines stock price. There are many types of techniques and methods that investors use to figure out whether a stock price will go up or down!

What are the Sensex & the Nifty?


The Sensex is an "index". What is an index? An index is basically an indicator. It gives you a general idea about whether most of the stocks have gone up or most of the stocks have gone down. The Sensex is an indicator of all the major companies of the BSE. The Nifty is an indicator of all the major companies of the NSE. If the Sensex goes up, it means that the prices of the stocks of most of the major companies on the BSE have gone up. If the Sensex goes down, this tells you that the stock price of most of the major stocks on the BSE have gone down. Just like the Sensex represents the top stocks of the BSE, the Nifty represents the top stocks of the NSE. Just in case you are confused, the BSE, is the Bombay Stock Exchange and the NSE is the National Stock Exchange. The BSE is situated at Bombay and the NSE is situated at Delhi. These are the major stock exchanges in the country. There are other stock exchanges like the Calcutta Stock Exchange etc. but they are not as popular as the BSE

and the NSE.Most of the stock trading in the country is done though the BSE & the NSE. Besides Sensex and the Nifty there are many other indexes. There is an index that gives you an idea about whether the mid-cap stocks go up and down. This is called the BSE Mid-cap Index. There are many other types of indexes.

The Basics of Fundamental Analysis


Fundamental analysis is a stock valuation method that uses financial and economic analysis to predict the movement of stock prices. The fundamental information that is analyzed can include a company's financial reports, and non-financial information such as estimates of the growth of demand for products sold by the company, industry comparisons, and economy-wide changes, changes in government policies etc..

General Strategy
To a fundamentalist, the market price of a stock tends to move towards it's real value or intrinsic value. If the intrinsic/real value of a stock is above the current market price, the investor would purchase the stock because he knows that the stock price would rise and move towards its intrinsic or real value If the intrinsic value of a stock was below the market price, the investor would sell the stock because he knows that the stock price is going to fall and come closer to its intrinsic value. All this seems simple. Now the next obvious question is how do you find out what the intrinsic value of a company is? Once you know this, you will be able to compare this price to the market price of the company and decide whether you want to buy it (or sell it if you already own that stock). To start finding out the intrinsic value, the fundamentalist analyzer makes an examination of the current and future overall health of the economy as a whole. After you analyzed the overall economy, you have to analyze firm you are interested in. You should analyze factors that give the firm a competitive advantage in its sector such as management experience, history of performance, growth potential, low cost producer, brand name etc. Find out as much as possible about the company and their products. Do they have any core competency or fundamental strength that puts them ahead of all the other competing firms?

What advantage do they have over their competing firms? Do they have a strong market presence and market share? Or do they constantly have to employ a large part of their profits and resources in marketing and finding new customers and fighting for market share? After you understand the company & what they do, how they relate to the market and their customers, you will be in a much better position to decide whether the price of the companies stock is going to go up or down. Having understood the basics of fundamental analysis, let us go into some more details. When investing in the stocks, we want the price of our stock to rise. Not only do we want our stock price to rise, we want it to rise FAST! So the challenge is to figure out: which stock prices are going to rise fast? Some stocks are cheap and some are costly. Some are worth Rs.500 and some are even worth 50paise. But the price of the stock is not important. The price of the stock does not make a stock good to buy. What is important is how much the price of the stock is likely to rise. If you invest Rs.500 in one stock of Rs.500 and the price goes up to Rs.540 you will make Rs.40. However, if you invest Rs.500 in a 50paise stock, you will have 1000 stocks. If the price of the stock goes up from 50paise to Rs.1, then the Rs.500 you invested is now Rs.1000. You made a profit of Rs.500. If you understand this, you can see that the price of the stock is not important. What is important is the rise in the stocks price. More specifically the percentage rise in the stock price is important. If the Rs.500 stock becomes worth Rs.540, then that is a 8% rise. This 8% rise only makes us Rs.40. On the other hand when we invest the same Rs.500 in the 50paise stock and the stock price goes up to Rs.1, it is a 100% rise as the stock price has doubled. This 100% rise makes us Rs.500. The point is that when picking a company, we are interested in a company whose stock price will rise by a large percentage. Please note: Looking at the above paragraphs, it may seem like a good idea to buy all the really cheap 50paise and Rs.1 stocks hoping that their price will rise by 100% or more. This sounds good, but it can also be really really bad some times! These really small stocks are very volatile and unless you know what you are doing, do NOT get into them. However, the point to be noted is that we are interested in stocks that will have the

highest % rise in the stock price. Now the question is, how do you compare stocks. How do you compare a stock worth Rs.500 to a stock worth 50paise and figure out which one will have a higher percentage rise. How do you compare two companies that are in different fields and different industries? How do you know which one is fundamentally strong and which one is week? If you try to compare two companies in different industries and different customers it is like comparing apples and elephants. There is no way to compare them! So fundamental analysts use different tools and ratios to compare all sorts of companies no matter what business they are in or what they do!