To make comparisons between companies, sectors and markets a little easier, there are a number of mathematical models used. The most common and often the most helpful is the P/E ratio. The Price to Earnings ratio takes the share price and is divided by the earnings per share. It is possible to calculate this using past earnings, projected future earnings and with all sorts of moving averages ;-) Therefore, this is one number that it is vital for any investor to know and understand.
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This education really ought to include one of the daily papers that covers the movements on the stock exchange (information here) in detail, such as the Financial Times or Wall Street Journal. Remember, the investment bankers that you are competing against have Bloomberg terminals and Reuters subscriptions, while everyone else is watching CNN and MSNBC. Since everyone is reading the same things on the same days, these might not be the best places to pick up your share market tips...
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The stock market is made up of exchanges, like the New York Stock Exchange and the Nasdaq. Stocks are listed on a specific exchange, which brings buyers and sellers together and acts as a market for the shares of those stocks. The exchange tracks the supply and demand — and directly related, the price — of each stock. (Need to back up a bit? Read our explainer about stocks.)
Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith Incorporated (also referred to as "MLPF&S" or "Merrill") makes available certain investment products sponsored, managed, distributed or provided by companies that are affiliates of Bank of America Corporation ("BofA Corp."). MLPF&S is a registered broker-dealer, a registered investment adviser, Member Securities Investor Protection (SIPC) popup and a wholly owned subsidiary of Bank of America Corporation ("BofA Corp").
A stock market is a similar designated market for trading various kinds of securities in a controlled, secure and managed the environment. Since the stock market brings together hundreds of thousands of market participants who wish to buy and sell shares, it ensures fair pricing practices and transparency in transactions. While earlier stock markets used to issue and deal in paper-based physical share certificates, the modern day computer-aided stock markets operate electronically.
Dividends are quarterly payments companies send out to their shareholders. Dividend investing refers to portfolios containing stocks that consistently issue dividend payments throughout the years. These stocks produce a reliable passive income stream that can be beneficial in retirement. You can't judge a stock by its dividend price alone, however. Sometimes companies will increase dividends as a way to attract investors when the underlying company is in trouble. If a company is offering high dividends, ask yourself why management isn't reinvesting some of that money in the company for growth.
A stock split is when a company increases its total shares by dividing up the ones it currently has. It is typically done on a 2:1 ratio. For example, if you own 100 shares of a stock priced at $80 per share, after the split, you'll have 200 shares priced at $40 each. The number of shares changes, but the value remains the same. Stock splits occur when prices are increasing in a way that deters and disadvantages smaller investors. They can also keep the trading volume up by creating a larger buying pool to trade. If you invest in a stock, expect to experience a stock split at some point.
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