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A Guide to Understanding Different Types of Stocks

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The stock market can be an intimidating place for new investors. With market volatility and the financial jargon used by commentators, it can be hard to know where to start with stocks. Fortunately, stocks aren’t as complex as they seem, and while there are many different categories of stocks, they all have a lot in common. Here’s what you should know about the different types of stocks.


1. Common Stock

Common stock represents an ownership stake in a company, granting shareholders voting rights on corporate matters such as electing the board of directors and adopting company policies.  Common stock is suitable for investors looking for growth potential and willing to assume higher risk.   It is also ideal for those interested in having a say in company decisions.

Place in Portfolio: Common stock is a fundamental component of most investment portfolios, offering the potential for both capital appreciation and dividend income.

An example of a popular common stock is Apple (AAPL), a technology company known for its innovative products like the iconic iPhone.  As a common stock, it provides shareholders with voting rights and potential for both capital appreciation and dividends.

 finviz dynamic chart for  AAPL

Pros and Cons

  • Potential for significant capital gains
  • Dividend payments
  • Voting rights
  • Higher volatility and risk
  • Dividends are not guaranteed and may fluctuate

2. Preferred Stock

Preferred stock resembles a bond more than common stock.  It typically does not provide voting rights but offers fixed dividend payments that take priority over common stock dividends.  Preferred stock typically appeals to income-focused investors seeking more stable returns with lower risk than common stocks.

Place in Portfolio: Adds stability and reliable income, making it suitable for conservative portfolios.

An example of a popular preferred stock is Bank of America, which offers preferred shares that pay fixed dividends and have a higher claim on assets than common shares.  These preferred shares appeal to income-focused investors seeking stability.

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 finviz dynamic chart for  BAC

Pros and Cons

  • Fixed dividends
  • Higher claim on assets in case of liquidation
  • Lower volatility
  • Limited upside potential
  • Lack of voting rights
  • May be callable

3. Large-Cap Stock

Large-cap stocks are shares of companies with a market capitalization of $10 billion or more and are usually well-established companies with a proven track record.  Large-cap stocks are most attractive to conservative investors looking for stability and steady growth, and are often considered blue-chip stocks.

Place in Portfolio: Provides a solid foundation due to its stability and reliable performance.

An example of a popular large-cap stock is Microsoft.  This is a large-cap company with a market capitalization well over $1 trillion.  It is a well-established technology company known for its software, services, and devices.

finviz dynamic chart for  MSFT

Pros and Cons

  • Stability and lower risk
  • Regular dividends
  • Established market presence
  • Slower growth compared to smaller companies
  • Less opportunity for dramatic price appreciation

4. Mid-Cap Stock

Mid-cap stocks are companies with a market capitalization between $2 billion and $10 billion, typically in a growth phase. As a result, they can offer a balance between risk and reward, making them ideal for investors seeking a mix of growth and stability. They are also suitable for diversifying beyond large-cap stocks.

Place in Portfolio: Adds growth potential while maintaining a moderate risk level.

An example of a mid-cap stock is Autodesk, which is a software company with a market capitalization in the mid-cap range.  It provides design software for various industries and has significant growth potential.

finviz dynamic chart for  ADSK

Pros and Cons

  • Higher growth potential than large-caps
  • More stable than small-caps
  • Higher risk than large-caps
  • Less market presence than large-caps

5. Small-Cap Stock

Small-cap stocks are shares of companies with a market capitalization of less than $2 billion and typically represent companies in the early stages of growth.  Accordingly, small-cap stocks appeal to aggressive investors looking for high growth potential and willing to take on more risk.

Place in Portfolio: Provides significant growth opportunities but should be balanced with more stable investments.

For example, Axos Financial is a small-cap company in the banking sector that offers online banking services and has room for significant growth.

finviz dynamic chart for  AX

Pros and Cons

  • High growth potential
  • Potential to identify undervalued companies
  • Higher volatility and risk
  • Less financial stability

6. Growth Stock

Growth stocks are shares in companies expected to grow at an above-average rate compared to other companies.  These companies typically reinvest earnings to fuel growth rather than paying dividends, making them appropriate for investors seeking capital appreciation and willing to accept higher risk.

Place in Portfolio: Essential for aggressive portfolios focused on capital gains.

For an interesting growth stock, look no further than Amazon.  With its rapid expansion in e-commerce, cloud computing, and other ventures, AMZN can provide substantial growth potential.

finviz dynamic chart for  AMZN

Pros and Cons

  • High potential for capital appreciation
  • Often innovative and market leaders
  • High valuation and risk
  • Often no dividends

7. Value Stock

Value stocks are shares of companies that are considered undervalued in price based on fundamental analysis.  These companies may have lower valuation multiples compared to their growth prospects.  Value stocks can be attractive to conservative investors looking for bargains and willing to hold long-term for potential appreciation.

Place in Portfolio: Provides stability and potential for price correction.

For a value stock, Intel Corporation is a great example.  It is a leading semiconductor company known for manufacturing microprocessors and other technology components.  Despite its significant market presence, Intel often trades at lower valuation multiples compared to its growth prospects, making it an attractive option for value investors.

finviz dynamic chart for  INTC

Pros and Cons

  • Lower risk of overvaluation
  • Potential for price appreciation
  • May be undervalued for a reason
  • Slower growth

8. Dividend Stock

Dividend stocks are shares of companies that pay regular dividends.  These companies are often well-established with stable earnings, making them perfect for income-focused investors seeking regular income from their investments.

Place in Portfolio: Provides a steady income stream that is suitable for conservative portfolios.

One of the most well-known dividend stocks is Coca-Cola, which is known for its reliable dividend payments, making it a popular choice among income-focused investors.  In fact, Coca-Cola is known as a ‘dividend king,‘ which is a company that has consistently increased its dividends for 50+ years.

finviz dynamic chart for  KO

Pros and Cons

  • Regular income
  • Lower volatility
  • Limited growth potential
  • Dividends can be cut

9. Foreign Stock

Foreign stocks are shares of companies based outside the investor's home country and provide exposure to international markets and economies.  They are suitable for investors looking to diversify their portfolios globally.

Place in Portfolio: Adds geographical diversification, reducing home-country bias.

If looking for exposure to companies based overseas, Toyota should be a top consideration.  This company is a Japanese automaker with ADRs (American Depositary Receipts) traded on the New York Stock Exchange, providing U.S. investors exposure to foreign markets.

finviz dynamic chart for  TM

Pros and Cons

  • Diversification benefits
  • Exposure to emerging markets
  • Currency risk
  • Political and economic instability

10. Sector Stock

Sector stocks represent companies within a specific industry, such as technology, healthcare, or finance.  These are perfect for investors who have expertise or interest in specific industries that they believe in.

Place in Portfolio: Allows targeted exposure to high-growth sectors but should be balanced with broader market investments.

An example of a sector stock is pharmaceutical giant, Pfizer.  This company is a leader in the healthcare sector, and is known for its research, development, and manufacture of medications and vaccines.

finviz dynamic chart for  PFE

Pros and Cons

  • Potential for high returns in booming sectors
  • Industry-specific knowledge can be advantageous
  • Higher risk due to lack of diversification
  • Sector downturns can significantly impact returns

11. Penny Stocks

 Penny stocks are shares of small companies that trade at very low prices, typically below $5 per share.  They are often traded over-the-counter (OTC) rather than on major stock exchanges.  Investing in penny stocks is often seen as a speculative practice, and is only recommended for investors looking for potentially high returns with a high tolerance for risk.

Place in Portfolio: Should only make up a small portion of a diversified portfolio due to their high risk.

Investors interested in high-risk/high-reward stocks may consider a company like Sundial Growers, which is a cannabis company trading at a low price and often classified as a penny stock due to its high volatility and speculative nature.

finviz dynamic chart for  SNDL

Pros and Cons

  • Potential for significant gains
  • Low initial investment
  • High volatility and risk
  • Lack of liquidity
  • Limited regulatory oversight

12. Blue-Chip Stocks

Blue-chip stocks are shares of large, reputable, and financially sound companies that have a history of reliable performance and dividend payments.  Suitable investors would be those who are more conservative, looking for stability, reliability, and steady income.

Place in Portfolio: Often forms the core of a stable, long-term investment portfolio.

Johnson & Johnson is a blue-chip stock known for its stability, consistent dividend payments, and leadership in the healthcare sector.

finviz dynamic chart for  JNJ

Pros and Cons

  • Stability and lower risk
  • Reliable dividend income
  • Strong market position
  • Limited growth potential
  • Can be expensive

13. Cyclical Stocks

Cyclical stocks are shares of companies whose performance is closely tied to the economic cycle.  These companies do well during economic expansions and suffer during recessions.  Cyclical stocks, as a result, appeal to investors who can time economic cycles and are willing to accept higher volatility.

Place in Portfolio: Useful for tactical allocation based on economic forecasts.

A perfect example of a cyclical stock is Caterpillar.  This construction and mining equipment manufacturer performs well during economic expansions but can be more volatile during recessions.

finviz dynamic chart for  CAT

Pros and Cons

  • High returns during economic booms
  • Can outperform in strong economic conditions
  • High risk during economic downturns
  • Unpredictable performance

14. Defensive Stocks

Defensive stocks belong to companies that provide essential goods and services, such as utilities, healthcare, and consumer staples.  Due to the nature of the services and goods they offer, these stocks tend to be less affected by economic cycles.  This ability to act as a hedge makes them ideal for risk-averse investors seeking stability and consistent performance regardless of economic conditions.

Place in Portfolio: Provides a hedge against economic downturns, adding stability to the portfolio.

For those with a more defensive mindset, consider a company like Procter & Gamble.  This consumer staples company provides essential goods like household and personal care products, making it a defensive stock.

finviz dynamic chart for  PG

Pros and Cons

  • Stable and consistent returns
  • Lower volatility
  • Lower growth potential
  • May underperform during economic booms

15. Income Stocks

Income stocks are shares of companies that prioritize paying high dividends over reinvesting profits into the business.  These stocks are typically found in mature, stable industries, and attract investors seeking regular income rather than capital appreciation.

Place in Portfolio: Ideal for income-focused portfolios, such as those for retirees.

Known for its high dividend yield, AT&T is a popular income stick.  It provides regular income to investors, making it a ideal for income-focused portfolios.

finviz dynamic chart for  T

Pros and Cons

  • Regular, high dividend payments
  • Lower volatility
  • Limited capital appreciation
  • Dividends can be cut in financial difficulties

16. IPO Stocks

IPO stocks are shares of companies that have recently gone public through an Initial Public Offering (IPO), often resulting in them being highly volatile as the market determines their value.  This volatility often attracts speculative investors looking to get in early on potentially high-growth companies.

Place in Portfolio: Should be approached with caution and limited to a small portion of the portfolio.

At the time of writing, Rivian is still new enough to be considered an IPO stock that is still undergoing price discovery.  It is an electric vehicle manufacturer that recently went public, making it an example of an IPO stock with potential for high growth.

finviz dynamic chart for  RIVN

Pros and Cons

  • Potential for significant gains
  • Opportunity to invest early in promising companies
  • High volatility and risk
  • Limited historical performance data

17. ESG Stocks

ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) stocks are shares of companies that prioritize sustainable and ethical practices.  These companies are often evaluated based on their adherence to ESG criteria, making them appropriate for socially conscious investors who want to align their investments with their values.

Place in Portfolio: Can be part of a diversified portfolio with a focus on sustainable and ethical investing.

With ESG initiatives only increasing, investing in companies that align with this narrative is increasingly popular.  Tesla is an example of this and is often highlighted for its focus on sustainable energy and electric vehicles, fitting within the ESG criteria for environmentally conscious investors.

finviz dynamic chart for  TSLA

Pros and Cons

  • Aligns investments with personal values
  • Growing demand for ESG can drive performance
  • May have limited investment options
  • Can underperform if ESG criteria are prioritized over financial performance

18. REITs (Real Estate Investment Trusts)

REITs are companies that own, operate or finance income-producing real estate.  They are required to distribute a significant portion of their earnings as dividends.  Investors seeking exposure to real estate without direct property ownership should consider REITs.

Place in Portfolio: Adds diversification and income through real estate exposure.

An example of a REIT that is available to invest in is the Simon Property Group, which is a large REIT focusing on owning and managing retail properties, offering investors high dividend yields and exposure to the real estate market.

finviz dynamic chart for  SPG

Pros and Cons

  • High dividend yields
  • Diversification benefits
  • Sensitive to interest rate changes
  • Potential for market volatility

Bottom Line

While there are many different types of stocks, they all represent stakes in actual businesses.  Understanding each type's characteristics, risks, and rewards can help you build a diversified and balanced portfolio tailored to your investment goals.  Whether you're looking for growth, income, or stability, there's a type of stock that can fit your needs.  Always analyze the underlying business and market conditions before investing to make informed decisions.

Daniel is a big proponent of how blockchain will eventually disrupt big finance. He breathes technology and lives to try new gadgets.