How Does High Frequency Trading (HFT) Impact Markets

How Does High-Frequency Trading (HFT) Impact Markets?

High-frequency trading (HFT) firms use ultrafast computer algorithms to conduct big trades of stocks, options, and futures in fractions of a second. HFT firms also rely on sophisticated data networks to get price information and detect trends in markets.

A key characteristic of HFT trading — in addition to high speed, high-volume transactions — is the ultra-short time time horizon.

How high-frequency trading impacts markets is a controversial topic. Proponents of HFT say that these firms add liquidity to markets, helping bring down trading costs for everyone. HFT critics argue such firms are an example of how bigger, better-funded players have an advantage over smaller retail investors, and that HFT technology can be used for illegal purposes like front-running and spoofing.

What is High Frequency Trading?

Ultrafast speeds are paramount for high-frequency trading firms. Executing these automated trades at nanoseconds faster can mean the difference between profits and losses for HFT firms.

There are broadly two types of HFT strategies. The first is looking for trading opportunities that depend on market conditions. For instance, HFT firms may try to arbitrage price differences between exchange-traded funds (ETFs) and futures that track the same underlying index.

Futures contracts based on the S&P 500 Index may experience a price change nanoseconds faster than an ETF that tracks the same index. An HFT firm may capitalize on this price difference by using the futures price data to anticipate a price move in the ETF.

Another type of HFT is market making. Not all market makers are HFT firms, but market making is one of the businesses some HFT firms engage in.

A big market-making business for HFT firms is payment for order flow (PFOF). This is when retail brokerage firms send their client orders to HFT firms to execute. The HFT firms then make a payment to the retail brokerage firm.


💡 Quick Tip: Are self-directed brokerage accounts cost efficient? They can be, because they offer the convenience of being able to buy stocks online without using a traditional full-service broker (and the typical broker fees).

How HFT Works and Makes Money

High-frequency trading enables traders to profit from miniscule price fluctuations, and permits institutions to gain significant returns on bid-ask spreads. HFT algorithms can scan exchanges and multiple markets simultaneously, allowing traders to arbitrage slight price differences for the same asset.

Bid-Ask Spreads 101

High-frequency trading firms often profit from bid-ask spreads — the difference between the price at which a security is bought and the price at which it’s sold.

For instance, an HFT may provide a price quote for a stock that looks like this: $5-$5.01, 500×600. That means the HFT firm is willing to buy 500 shares at $5 each — the bid — while offering to sell 600 shares at $5.01 — the ask. The 1 cent difference is how the market maker makes a profit. While this seems small, with millions of trades, the profits can be sizable.

How wide bid-ask spreads are is also a marker of market liquidity. Bigger chunkier spreads are a sign of less liquid assets, while smaller, tighter spreads can indicate higher liquidity.

Recommended: What Is Quantitative Trading?

Payment For Order Flow 101

When it comes to payment for order flow, high-frequency traders can make money by seeing millions of retail trades that are bundled together.

This can be valuable data that gives HFT firms a sense of which way the market is headed in the short-term. HFT firms can trade on that information, taking the other side of the order and make money.

Background on High-Frequency Trading

High-frequency trading became popular when different stock exchanges started offering incentives to firms to add liquidity to the market. Liquidity is the ease with which trades can be done without affecting market prices.

Like momentum trading, the HFT industry grew rapidly as technology in the financial space began to take off in the mid-2000s.

Adding liquidity means being willing to take the other sides of trades and not needing to get trades filled immediately. In other words, you’re willing to sit and wait. Meanwhile, taking liquidity is when you’re seeking to get trades done as soon as possible.

During 2009, about 60% of the market was said to be HFT. Since then, that percentage has declined to about 50% as some HFT firms have struggled to make money due to ever-increasing technology costs and a lack of volatility in some markets. These days the HFT industry is dominated by a handful of trading firms.

Pros and Cons of High-Frequency Trading

HFT comes with certain pros and cons.

Pros of HFT

High-frequency trading is automated and efficient, thanks to its use of complex algorithms to identify and leverage opportunities.

HFT may create some liquidity in the markets.

Cons of HFT

Because high-frequency trades are conducted by institutional investors, like investment banks and hedge funds, these firms and their clientele tend to benefit more than retail investors.

Because high-frequency trades are made in seconds, HFT may only add a kind of “ghost liquidity” to the market.

Some HFT firms may also engage in illegal practices such as front-running or spoofing trades. Spoofing is where traders place market orders and then cancel them before the order is ever fulfilled, simply to create price movements.

The Debate Over High Frequency Trading

High-frequency trading is a controversial topic, and HFT firms have been involved in lawsuits alleging that they create an unfair advantage and potentially create volatility.

Criticism of HFT

One complaint about HFT is that it’s giving institutional investors an advantage because they can afford to develop rapid-speed computer algorithms and purchase extensive data networks.

Critics argue that HFT can add volatility to the market, since algorithms can make quick decisions without the judgment of humans to weigh on different situations that come up in markets.

For instance, after the so-called “Flash Crash” on May 6, 2010, when the S&P 500 dropped dramatically in a matter of minutes, critics argued that HFT firms exacerbated the selloff.

HFT critics also argue that such traders only provide a very temporary kind of liquidity that benefits their own trades, but not retail investors. A December 2020 paper published by the European Central Bank also argued that too much competition in the HFT industry can cause firms to engage in more speculative trading, which can harm market liquidity.


💡 Quick Tip: Before opening any investment account, consider what level of risk you are comfortable with. If you’re not sure, start with more conservative investments, and then adjust your portfolio as you learn more.

Defense of HFT

Defenders of high-frequency trading argue that it has improved liquidity and decreased the cost of trading for small, retail investors. In other words, it made markets more efficient.

This can be particularly important in markets like options trading, where there are thousands of different types of contracts that brokerages may have trouble finding buyers and sellers for. HFT can be helpful liquidity providers in such markets.

When it comes to payment for order flow, defenders of HFT also argue that retail investors have enjoyed price improvement, when they get better prices than they would on a public stock exchange.

The Takeaway

It’s tough to be an investor in many markets today without being affected by high-frequency trading. HFT firms are proprietary trading firms that rely on ultrafast computers and data networks to execute large orders, primarily in the stocks, options, and futures markets.

HFT proponents argue that their participation helps markets be more efficient. Critics argue that they have a big advantage over smaller investors, given how much they pay for information and data networks.

Ready to invest in your goals? It’s easy to get started when you open an investment account with SoFi Invest. You can invest in stocks, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), mutual funds, alternative funds, and more. SoFi doesn’t charge commissions, but other fees apply (full fee disclosure here).


Invest with as little as $5 with a SoFi Active Investing account.

FAQ

Is high-frequency trading profitable?

High-frequency trading aims to profit from micro changes in price movements through the use of highly sophisticated, ultrafast technology. That said, HFT investors are subject to losses as well as gains.

Is high-frequency trading illegal?

High-frequency trading has been the subject of lawsuits alleging that HFT firms have an unfair advantage over retail investors, but HFT is still allowed. That said, HFT firms have been linked to illegal practices such as front-running.

What is an example of high-frequency trading?

High-frequency trading can be used with a variety of strategies. One of the most common is arbitrage, which is a way of buying and selling securities to take advantage of (often) miniscule price differences between exchanges. A very simple example could be buying 100 shares of a stock at $75 per share on the Nasdaq stock exchange, and selling those shares on the NYSE for $75.20.

Photo credit: iStock/wacomka


SoFi Invest®
INVESTMENTS ARE NOT FDIC INSURED • ARE NOT BANK GUARANTEED • MAY LOSE VALUE
SoFi Invest encompasses two distinct companies, with various products and services offered to investors as described below: Individual customer accounts may be subject to the terms applicable to one or more of these platforms.
1) Automated Investing and advisory services are provided by SoFi Wealth LLC, an SEC-registered investment adviser (“SoFi Wealth“). Brokerage services are provided to SoFi Wealth LLC by SoFi Securities LLC.
2) Active Investing and brokerage services are provided by SoFi Securities LLC, Member FINRA (www.finra.org)/SIPC(www.sipc.org). Clearing and custody of all securities are provided by APEX Clearing Corporation.
For additional disclosures related to the SoFi Invest platforms described above please visit SoFi.com/legal.
Neither the Investment Advisor Representatives of SoFi Wealth, nor the Registered Representatives of SoFi Securities are compensated for the sale of any product or service sold through any SoFi Invest platform.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

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How to Trade the Bullish Engulfing Candlestick Pattern

Traders use the bullish engulfing candlestick pattern to identify bullish reversals. It is an impressive two-day candlestick that features a candlestick body encompassing the previous day’s body. It is important to monitor confirmation signals in subsequent periods following a bullish engulfing pattern.

A bullish engulfing pattern occurs after a downtrend has taken place. The positioning of candlesticks relative to a price trend is a critical piece of candlestick analysis. The bullish turnaround is a signal of a trend reversal.

What Is a Bullish Engulfing Pattern?

The bullish engulfing pattern is a two-candlestick pattern consisting of a large green candle body (green indicates rising prices, but colors may differ based on your chart settings) that completely overlaps the previous time period’s body. It is a sign of a trend reversal from bearish to bullish.

Bullish Engulfing

This formation is more likely to portend a reversal when it follows four or more red (red indicates falling prices) candlesticks. The bullish engulfing pattern is thought to show that the bears have lost their momentum and the bulls are ready to take charge.

Recommended: What Is a Candlestick Chart?

The candle for the first period often features a small red body while the second time period is a candlestick with a large green body, sometimes happening on high volume. The candle for the second period also features a small gap down in price, which briefly gives confidence to the bears.

The bulls quickly grab the reins and drive prices higher intraday.

As with many candlestick patterns, it is important to know where one pattern’s position is relative to the prevailing trend. A bullish engulfing pattern should happen in a downtrend. While bullish engulfing candles can certainly happen in a sideways market or uptrend, they are not seen as definitive compared to when they take place after downward price action.



💡 Quick Tip: Before opening an investment account, know your investment objectives, time horizon, and risk tolerance. These fundamentals will help keep your strategy on track and with the aim of meeting your goals.

What Does a Bullish Engulfing Pattern Tell Traders?

A bullish engulfing candlestick pattern tells traders that a price trend reversal might be happening. Placement of the bullish engulfing candle is critical: It should occur in a downtrend. The large green body demonstrates strong upward momentum — the stock (or any other asset) opens near the low of the period and rallies throughout the session to settle near the high. You can also use candlesticks over other periods such as weeks or months or even on shorter time frame charts.

In the bullish engulfing pattern the engulfing candle comes after a small red candle in which prices traded in a relatively narrow range, but still featured decidedly bearish price action. In the larger context, the bearish trend must have been in place for a significant time. This setup makes the bullish engulfing candlestick even more important as it tells the trader that a new bull market might be brewing.

While the two-day pattern is interpreted as bullish, you might still want to wait for further evidence that the trend has indeed changed. Traders often hold off on buying shares until after subsequent price action holds the bullish engulfing candle’s closing price. A bullish engulfing formation illustrates a change in sentiment from bearish to bullish.

Example of a Bullish Engulfing Pattern

An example helps display the power of a bullish engulfing candle.

Let’s say a stock fell from a high of $150 per share six months ago. A downtrend is in place. You believe the stock is a good value based on fundamental analysis but you want to wait for a bullish price trend reversal before purchasing shares.

You notice prices have been falling for five straight days, but then today’s price action had a different tone. The stock opened the prior day at $110, ranged from $107 to $111, and settled at $108. It had a red (bearish) body since the stock closed below the opening price.

Today, the stock gapped down to open at $103, dropped to $101 early, then steadily climbed on strong volume throughout the session. It notched a high of $115, then closed at $113. Since the stock closed above the opening price, the candle had a green body. It also engulfed the previous day’s body.

The bullish engulfing candle appeared at the bottom of a price trend and demonstrated an increase in buying pressure. You decide to wait for further evidence that a bottom was established and that a price uptrend is now in place. Indeed, two days after the bullish engulfing pattern, the stock held the day 2 candle’s low price.

You go long shares at $115 and place a sell stop order at $100 (below the pattern’s lowest price). You are sure to monitor support and resistance levels as the price trends higher so you can manage your position keeping risk in mind.

Recommended: 5 Bullish Indicators for a Stock

How does the Bullish Engulfing Pattern Work?

The bullish engulfing candlestick pattern works by signaling a bullish trend reversal. Let’s review the benefits and drawbacks of this important candlestick formation.

Benefits of the Bullish Engulfing Pattern

There are several advantages of bullish engulfing patterns.

In general, they are easy to spot and interpret.

Offering traders defined stop loss levels is another benefit. You can also combine other technical indicators with engulfing formations to help confirm reversals.

Finally, engulfing candlestick patterns can be used on many timeframes and across different asset classes.


💡 Quick Tip: How to manage potential risk factors in a self-directed investment account? Doing your research and employing strategies like dollar-cost averaging and diversification may help mitigate financial risk when trading stocks.

Drawbacks of the Bullish Engulfing Pattern

Technical analysis does not provide an absolute prediction, so take caution when interpreting specific patterns.

Moreover, no single indicator is a sure thing – and that goes for the bullish engulfing candlestick pattern. It might be helpful to use other technical indicators to buttress your trading thesis.

Another drawback of the bullish engulfing pattern is that you might see a bullish engulfing candle on a daily chart of a stock, but then see an equally bearish candlestick pattern on its weekly chart.

It’s also risky if the engulfing candle is so big that it leaves the trader with a potentially large stop loss if the asset price reverses lower after the pattern.

Finally, there is always the risk that a false breakout or breakdown takes place, so setting reasonable exit strategies is important.

How to Trade a Bullish Engulfing Pattern

You should analyze the existing trend and look for confirmation following a bullish engulfing candlestick. This concept is important when using technical analysis to research stocks.

For example, if a bullish engulfing day happens after many weeks of downward stock price action, then a bullish reversal might be more effective at taking shape.

Monitoring volume trends is also crucial when trading the bullish engulfing pattern. Look for high volume on the day of the engulfing candle.

Finally, it might be prudent to wait for confirmation of the bullish engulfing candlestick – that means you might buy shares of a stock the day after a bullish engulfing so long as the stock price remains above the engulfing candlestick’s low price.

As additional protection against outsize losses, sell stop order is often placed below the engulfing candle’s swing low.

The Takeaway

The bullish engulfing candlestick pattern helps traders spot potential trend reversals on a chart. The pattern is defined as a two-period candlestick pattern with a green (price rising) candlestick that closes above the previous period’s opening price after beginning the current period lower than the previous period’s close. The current day’s candle body completely overlaps the prior day’s real body.

Ready to invest in your goals? It’s easy to get started when you open an investment account with SoFi Invest. You can invest in stocks, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), mutual funds, alternative funds, and more. SoFi doesn’t charge commissions, but other fees apply (full fee disclosure here).

For a limited time, opening and funding an Active Invest account gives you the opportunity to get up to $1,000 in the stock of your choice.


Photo credit: iStock/PeopleImages

SoFi Invest®
INVESTMENTS ARE NOT FDIC INSURED • ARE NOT BANK GUARANTEED • MAY LOSE VALUE
SoFi Invest encompasses two distinct companies, with various products and services offered to investors as described below: Individual customer accounts may be subject to the terms applicable to one or more of these platforms.
1) Automated Investing and advisory services are provided by SoFi Wealth LLC, an SEC-registered investment adviser (“SoFi Wealth“). Brokerage services are provided to SoFi Wealth LLC by SoFi Securities LLC.
2) Active Investing and brokerage services are provided by SoFi Securities LLC, Member FINRA (www.finra.org)/SIPC(www.sipc.org). Clearing and custody of all securities are provided by APEX Clearing Corporation.
For additional disclosures related to the SoFi Invest platforms described above please visit SoFi.com/legal.
Neither the Investment Advisor Representatives of SoFi Wealth, nor the Registered Representatives of SoFi Securities are compensated for the sale of any product or service sold through any SoFi Invest platform.

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What Is Pre-IPO Placement?

A pre-IPO placement involves the sale of unregistered shares in a company before they’re listed on a stock exchange for the first time. A pre-IPO placement usually occurs immediately before a company goes public.

Companies typically sell pre-IPO shares to hedge funds, private equity firms and other institutional investors that can purchase them in large quantities. It’s possible, however, to get involved in pre-IPO investing as an individual retail investor.

Investing in IPOs or pre-IPO stock could be profitable, if the company’s public offering lives up to or exceeds market expectations. But it’s also risky, since you never know how a stock will perform in the future.

How Does Pre-IPO Placement Work?

An IPO, or initial public offering, is an opportunity for private companies to introduce their stock to the market for the first time. A typical IPO requires a lengthy process, as there are numerous regulatory guidelines that companies must meet.

Once those hurdles are cleared, however, the company will have a date on which it goes public. Investors can then purchase shares of the company through the stock exchange where it lists.

Pre-IPO investing works a little differently. The end goal is still to have the company go public. But before that, the company sells blocks of shares privately, based on its IPO valuation. A successful pre-IPO gives the company attention, as well as capital from investors ahead of the actual IPO date.

For the most part, pre-IPO shares are restricted to high-net-worth investors, or accredited investors, i.e. those who can afford to invest large amounts of capital, and can afford to take on a certain amount of risk. A pre-IPO placement of shares could be made without a prospectus or even a guarantee that the IPO will occur.

Individual investors typically don’t have the funds required, or the stomach for that level of risk.

In return for that measure of uncertainty Pre-IPO investors get in on the ground floor and purchase shares before they’re available to the market at large. There may also be an added incentive. Because they’re buying such large blocks of shares, pre-IPO investors may get access to them for less than the projected IPO price.


💡 Quick Tip: IPO stocks can get a lot of media hype. But savvy investors know that where there’s buzz there can also be higher-than-warranted valuations. IPO shares might spike or plunge (or both), so investing in IPOs may not be suitable for investors with short time horizons.

An Example of Pre-IPO Placement

Pre-IPO placements have gained popularity over the last decade, with more companies opting to offer them ahead of going public. Some of the companies that have offered pre-IPO stock include Uber and Alibaba, both of which have ties to e-commerce.

Alibaba’s pre-IPO offering was notable due to the fact that a single investor and portfolio manager purchased a large block of shares. The investor, Ozi Amanat, purchased $35 million worth of pre-IPO stock at a price that was below $60 per share.

He then distributed those shares among a select group of families. By the end of the first public trading day, Alibaba’s shares had risen to $90 each. Alibaba’s IPO delivered a 48% return to those pre-IPO shareholders due to higher-than-expected demand for the company’s stock.

In Uber’s case, PayPal agreed to purchase $500 million worth of the company’s common stock ahead of its IPO. PayPal then lost a large portion of its investment when the Uber stock price fell by about 30% following its IPO.

Pros and Cons of Pre-IPO Placement

There are benefits to pre-IPOs placements, but there are also some important drawbacks that investors should understand.

Pros of Pre-IPO Placement

From the perspective of the company, pre-IPO offerings can be advantageous if they help the company to raise much-needed capital ahead of the IPO. Offering private placements of shares before going public can help attract interest to the IPO itself, which could help make it more successful.

For investors, the benefits include:

•   Access to shares of a company before the public.

•   The potential ability to purchase shares of pre-IPO stock at a discount. So if a company’s IPO price is expected to be $30 a share, pre-IPO investors may be able to purchase it for $25 instead. This already gives them an edge over investors who may be purchasing shares the day the IPO launches.

•   Purchasing shares at a discount can potentially translate to higher returns overall if the IPO meets or exceeds initial expectations. The higher the company’s stock price rises following the IPO, the more profits you could pocket by selling those shares later.

Recommended: How to Find Upcoming IPO Stocks Before Listing Day

Cons of Pre-IPO Placement

While pre-IPO investing could be lucrative, there are some potential backs to consider. Specifically, there are certain risks involved that could make it a less attractive option for investors.

•   The company’s IPO may not meet the expectations that have been set for it. That doesn’t mean a company won’t be successful later. Facebook, for example, is noteworthy for having an IPO described as a “belly flop”. A disappointing showing on the day a company goes public for the first time could shake investor confidence in the stock and bode ill for its future performance. That in turn could affect the returns realized from an investment in pre-IPO stock.

•   The company may never follow through on its IPO and fails to go public. In that case, investors may be left wondering what to do with the shares they hold through a pre-IPO private placement. WeWork is an example of this in action. In 2019, the workspace-sharing company announced that it had scrapped its plans for an IPO, thanks to limited interest from investors and concerns over the sustainability of its business model. In 2021, the company did go public — but not through an Initial Public Offering. Instead, WeWork went public through a merger with a special acquisition company or SPAC.

•   Pre-IPOs are less regulated than regular IPOs.



💡 Quick Tip: Before opening any investment account, consider what level of risk you are comfortable with. If you’re not sure, start with more conservative investments, and then adjust your portfolio as you learn more.

Summary of Pros and Cons of Pre-IPO Placement

Here’s a quick look at the benefits and drawbacks of pre-IPO placements:

Pre-IPO Private Placement Pros and Cons

Pros Cons

•   Investors have an opportunity to get into an investment ahead of the crowd

•   Pre-IPO investors may be able to purchase shares at a price that’s below the IPO price

•   Purchasing pre-IPO stock could yield higher returns if the IPO is successful

•   Pre-IPO placements can be risky, as they’re less regulated than regular IPOs

•   There are no guarantees that an IPO will deliver the type of returns investors expect

•   Does not guarantee you’ll get the loan

How to Buy Pre-IPO Stock

Typically, only accredited investors can purchase pre-IPO placements. As of 2021, the Securities and Exchange Commission defines an accredited investor as anyone who:

•   Earned income over $200,000 (or $300,000 if married) in each of the prior two years and reasonably expects to earn that same amount in the current year, OR

•   Has a net worth over $1 million, either by themselves or with a spouse, excluding the value of their primary residence, OR

•   Holds a Series 7, 65 or 82 license in good standing

If you meet these conditions for accredited investor status, then you may be able to purchase shares of pre-IPO stock through your brokerage account. Your brokerage will have to offer this service and not all of them do.

Other options for buying pre-IPO stock include purchasing it from the company directly. To do that, you may need to have a larger amount of capital at the ready. So if you’re not already an angel investor or venture capitalist, this option might be off the table.

You could also pursue pre-IPO placements indirectly by investing in companies that routinely purchase pre-IPO shares. For example, you might invest in a mutual fund or exchange-traded fund that specializes in private equity or late-stage companies preparing to go public. You won’t get the direct benefits of owning pre-IPO stock but you can still get exposure to them in your portfolio this way.

The Takeaway

For some high-net-worth or institutional investors, buying pre-IPO shares — a private sale of shares before a company’s initial public offering — might be possible. But it’s highly risky. For the most part, individual investors won’t have access to these kinds of private deals. But eligible investors may be able to trade ordinary IPO shares through their brokerage.

Whether you’re curious about exploring IPOs, or interested in traditional stocks and exchange-traded funds (ETFs), you can get started by opening an account on the SoFi Invest® brokerage platform. On SoFi Invest, eligible SoFi members have the opportunity to trade IPO shares, and there are no account minimums for those with an Active Investing account. As with any investment, it's wise to consider your overall portfolio goals in order to assess whether IPO investing is right for you, given the risks of volatility and loss.

Invest with as little as $5 with a SoFi Active Investing account.

Photo credit: iStock/filadendron


SoFi Invest®
INVESTMENTS ARE NOT FDIC INSURED • ARE NOT BANK GUARANTEED • MAY LOSE VALUE
SoFi Invest encompasses two distinct companies, with various products and services offered to investors as described below: Individual customer accounts may be subject to the terms applicable to one or more of these platforms.
1) Automated Investing and advisory services are provided by SoFi Wealth LLC, an SEC-registered investment adviser (“SoFi Wealth“). Brokerage services are provided to SoFi Wealth LLC by SoFi Securities LLC.
2) Active Investing and brokerage services are provided by SoFi Securities LLC, Member FINRA (www.finra.org)/SIPC(www.sipc.org). Clearing and custody of all securities are provided by APEX Clearing Corporation.
For additional disclosures related to the SoFi Invest platforms described above please visit SoFi.com/legal.
Neither the Investment Advisor Representatives of SoFi Wealth, nor the Registered Representatives of SoFi Securities are compensated for the sale of any product or service sold through any SoFi Invest platform.

Investing in an Initial Public Offering (IPO) involves substantial risk, including the risk of loss. Further, there are a variety of risk factors to consider when investing in an IPO, including but not limited to, unproven management, significant debt, and lack of operating history. For a comprehensive discussion of these risks please refer to SoFi Securities’ IPO Risk Disclosure Statement. IPOs offered through SoFi Securities are not a recommendation and investors should carefully read the offering prospectus to determine whether an offering is consistent with their investment objectives, risk tolerance, and financial situation.

New offerings generally have high demand and there are a limited number of shares available for distribution to participants. Many customers may not be allocated shares and share allocations may be significantly smaller than the shares requested in the customer’s initial offer (Indication of Interest). For SoFi’s allocation procedures please refer to IPO Allocation Procedures.


Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

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How Many Companies IPO Per Year? 2021 Trends

How Many Companies IPO Per Year? 2023 Trends

An initial public offering, or IPO, represents the first time a company makes its shares available for trade on a public stock exchange. The number of IPOs per year varies, depending on market conditions and the ease with which companies can raise capital via other methods.

Private companies can use IPOs to raise capital and fuel future growth, and hundreds of companies go public most years, presenting an opportunity for interested investors.

IPO statistics can offer some perspective on how frequently companies decide to go public and which sectors tend to see the most significant launches.

Number of IPOs by Year

A look at IPO history shows that the number of initial public offerings fluctuates significantly by year and decade. Since 2000, there have been some 6,013 IPOs. Here’s a look at IPO filings by year for that time frame:

Year

Number of IPOs

2000 397
2001 141
2002 183
2003 148
2004 314
2005 286
2006 220
2007 268
2008 62
2009 79
2010 190
2011 171
2012 157
2013 251
2014 304
2015 206
2016 133
2017 217
2018 255
2019 232
2020 480
2021 1,035
2022 181
2023* 79

*As of June 30, 2023.

The number of IPOs in any given year tend to follow movements in the economic cycle. In 2008, for example, there were just 62 IPOs as the economy and stock market were in the midst of a historic downturn. IPO activity didn’t pick up the pace again until 2010, once the Great Recession had ended.


💡 Quick Tip: Access to IPO shares before they trade on public exchanges has usually been available only to large institutional investors. That’s changing now, and some brokerages offer pre-listing IPO investing to qualified investors.

Previous Year IPOs

Companies were more likely to go public in the 1980s and 1990s than in recent years. Between 1980 and 2000, an average of 311 firms went public each year.

IPO activity spiked in the mid-90s as entrepreneurs sought to join the growing dot-com bubble.

Meanwhile, an average of 187 firms went public annually between 2001 and 2011. In recent years, larger, more established companies are more likely to go public than smaller private firms.

However, a record number of companies — 1,035 — went public in 2021. Some analysts point to loose monetary policy and a booming stock market as reasons so many companies went public during the year.

Additionally, one of the factors driving IPOs during 2020 and 2021 was an increase in IPOs for special-purpose acquisition corporations (SPACs). SPACs are essentially holding companies that go public with the sole purpose of acquiring another company.

Recommended: What Is an IPO Pop?

Overview of IPOs in 2022 – 2023

Following the boom in IPOs in 2021, the number of companies that went public during 2022 and 2023 dramatically decreased, due to several factors, including tight monetary policy to combat inflation, and a dramatic decline in the stock market.

As of June 30, 2023, there have been only 79 U.S. market IPOs so far — a 37% drop compared with the number of IPOs in 2022 by this time. There were 125 IPOs by June 30, 2022.

Of the 79 that debuted this year, about 46.8% — 37 companies — showed negative returns as of June 30, 2023, and 42 showed positive returns (bearing in mind that 11 companies IPO’d in June, and their prices may fluctuate in the coming quarters).

That said, the IPO proceeds in Q1 of 2022 similar to Q1 of 2023: $2.5 billion and $2.4 billion respectively. But company valuations were higher in 2022, and the 24 IPOs in Q1 generated almost as much in proceeds that year as the 33 IPOs in Q1 of 2023.

Evaluating the performance of stocks after a company goes public can give you an idea of how successful IPOs tend to be overall. However, it’s important to remember that it’s impossible to predict whether a stock will boom or bust in the months and years after it starts trading.

IPO stocks are considered highly volatile, high-risk investments, and while some companies may present an opportunity for growth, there are no guarantees. Like investing in any other type of stock, it’s essential for investors to do their due diligence.


💡 Quick Tip: Look for an online brokerage with low trading commissions as well as no account minimum. Higher fees can cut into investment returns over time.

The Takeaway

Looking at IPO statistics and IPOs by year can help you track trends and understand just how often companies go public, and why some years have more IPOs than others.

While the low interest rates and rising stock market of 2021 helped create a record year for 1,035 new companies, the climate now has changed: rates are higher, there’s more market volatility, and the slowing number of IPOs reflects that.

If you’re interested in adding IPOs to your portfolio, it’s also important to know which sectors tend to have the most and least IPO activity.

Whether you’re curious about exploring IPOs, or interested in traditional stocks and exchange-traded funds (ETFs), you can get started by opening an account on the SoFi Invest® brokerage platform. On SoFi Invest, eligible SoFi members have the opportunity to trade IPO shares, and there are no account minimums for those with an Active Investing account. As with any investment, it's wise to consider your overall portfolio goals in order to assess whether IPO investing is right for you, given the risks of volatility and loss.

Invest with as little as $5 with a SoFi Active Investing account.


Photo credit: iStock/Inside Creative House

SoFi Invest®
INVESTMENTS ARE NOT FDIC INSURED • ARE NOT BANK GUARANTEED • MAY LOSE VALUE
SoFi Invest encompasses two distinct companies, with various products and services offered to investors as described below: Individual customer accounts may be subject to the terms applicable to one or more of these platforms.
1) Automated Investing and advisory services are provided by SoFi Wealth LLC, an SEC-registered investment adviser (“SoFi Wealth“). Brokerage services are provided to SoFi Wealth LLC by SoFi Securities LLC.
2) Active Investing and brokerage services are provided by SoFi Securities LLC, Member FINRA (www.finra.org)/SIPC(www.sipc.org). Clearing and custody of all securities are provided by APEX Clearing Corporation.
For additional disclosures related to the SoFi Invest platforms described above please visit SoFi.com/legal.
Neither the Investment Advisor Representatives of SoFi Wealth, nor the Registered Representatives of SoFi Securities are compensated for the sale of any product or service sold through any SoFi Invest platform.

Investing in an Initial Public Offering (IPO) involves substantial risk, including the risk of loss. Further, there are a variety of risk factors to consider when investing in an IPO, including but not limited to, unproven management, significant debt, and lack of operating history. For a comprehensive discussion of these risks please refer to SoFi Securities’ IPO Risk Disclosure Statement. IPOs offered through SoFi Securities are not a recommendation and investors should carefully read the offering prospectus to determine whether an offering is consistent with their investment objectives, risk tolerance, and financial situation.

New offerings generally have high demand and there are a limited number of shares available for distribution to participants. Many customers may not be allocated shares and share allocations may be significantly smaller than the shares requested in the customer’s initial offer (Indication of Interest). For SoFi’s allocation procedures please refer to IPO Allocation Procedures.


Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

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How Are IPO Prices Set?

Before listing a stock for sale on a public exchange, companies undergo a rigorous process of preparation and compliance — which includes a suggested starting price for the shares they plan to sell in their initial public offering (IPO).

This price then creates an IPO valuation for the company.

Companies and their bankers use a variety of factors and steps to determine the IPO price. Here’s a closer look at the IPO valuation process.

What Is IPO Price?

An IPO price is the price at which a company’s stock is sold to accredited and institutional investors right before the stock trades on a public exchange. The purpose of the public offering price is to attract investors to buy the shares.

IPO stocks are considered high-risk investments, and while some companies may present an opportunity for growth, there are no guarantees. Like investing in any other type of stock, it’s essential for investors to do their due diligence.

The investment banks that underwrite a company’s public offering set the IPO price, using several variables including an analysis of the company’s growth potential, a comparison to related firms, and a determination of market demand conditions.

💡 Quick Tip: Keen to invest in an initial public offering, or IPO? Be sure to check with your brokerage about what’s required. Typically IPO stock is available only to eligible investors.

Initial Public Offerings 101

When privately owned companies, such as unicorn companies, begin to sell shares of stock to the public, they hold an initial public offering, or IPO. Before an IPO, companies are usually owned by the founders, employees, and early investors, such as venture capital firms and angel investors. The process of selling shares to investors is called going public. Typically the initial offering is limited, and there are a number of people eligible for those shares first.

For this reason, it can be difficult for individual investors to buy IPO stock when it’s first issued. In most cases, individuals can trade IPO shares on the secondary market through their brokerage. In some cases, a brokerage may set certain requirements in order for individual investors to buy shares.

An IPO can help a company raise significant capital. It can also be a source of publicity. However, the IPO process is also time-consuming and expensive. Once a company has gone public, it faces new challenges such as regulatory scrutiny and an increased need to please shareholders.

Recommended: What Is an IPO and How Does it Work?

Why Do Companies Go Public?

The main reason companies choose to go public is to raise money. Holding an IPO can create significant value for a company and its management. In some cases, IPOs raise millions and even billions of dollars for the company, but some companies also face losses after an IPO.

Bringing in public investment benefits the business, but it also benefits early investors. These initial investors, who have invested time and money in a company, can sell their shares following an IPO, unlocking shareholder value.

An IPO can also benefit employees of the company. That’s because when an individual joins a company, sometimes they are granted employee stock options. Companies will often give early employees the options over several months or years — a process called vesting. Usually, employees must wait to sell their vested stock until the end of a lock-up period — a period after an IPO during which employees have to wait before selling their shares.

Other reasons companies go public are to gain media attention, grow a broad base of financial supporters, and create a windfall for venture capital firms that helped fund the company in its early stages.

The number of publicly traded, exchange-listed companies in the U.S. has decreased from the peak in the mid-to-late 1990s when it reached about 8,000. In 2021, the figure was closer to 6,000 companies that traded on different stock exchanges, such as the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) and Nasdaq.

Steps in IPO Valuation

When a company decides to hold an IPO, they work with an investment bank to determine the company’s IPO valuation. The process of investment bankers handling an IPO is called underwriting.

How Underwriting Works in IPOs

Each underwriting process can be slightly different, but investment bankers’ factors in determining IPO prices and valuations are essentially the same. Some questions include:

•   Why has the company decided to go public?

•   What is the current status of the market?

•   Who are the company’s competitors?

•   What are the company’s assets?

•   How much has been invested in the company and by whom?

•   What is the history of the company and its team?

•   What are the company’s prospects for growth?

Recommended: What Is IPO Due Diligence?

Process of Determining IPO Prices

The rules of supply and demand apply to how the company and its underwriters will set an IPO price. Essentially, the underwriters must determine the demand for the shares based on the supply of shares that will be offered and sold to investors. These underwriters try to figure out what investors are willing to pay for each share of a company when it decides to go public.

To create a balance in this tradeoff that makes both existing and new investors happy, the company must decide how many new shares to issue and the estimated IPO price they plan to sell each share. The company’s executives and their investment bank determine the number of new shares by deciding how much money they hope to raise and how much ownership they are willing to give up.

Institutional Investors in IPO Process

Once executives and bankers decide on the number of new shares to issue, they reach out to institutional investors to start asking them how many shares they are interested in buying. Institutional investors include hedge funds, mutual funds, high net worth individuals, and pension funds in good standing with the investment bank.

Days before the IPO, the institutional investors place requests for how many shares they actually want to purchase. The company and its investment bankers then set the price for the IPO, and they know how much money they will raise.

The underwriting investment bank goes through the complex process of selling and allocating all the newly public shares to the institutional investors. They want to create a balance of different types of investors.

Retail Investors in IPO Process

Unfortunately for the at-home retail investor, it can be difficult to buy a stock at its IPO price. However, some brokerage platforms, like SoFi, have started to offer IPO Investing services that allow individuals to buy closer to the IPO price.

Determining Opening Price Point

Before the first day of trading, the stock exchanges on which the company decides to list look at all the incoming orders for the newly issued stock, which may be either buy or sell orders, and report the predominant price.

They then go through a process of price discovery to determine what the opening price will be. The goal is to have the maximum number of trades be executed from all the placed orders. At Nasdaq, this is done electronically, while human traders are involved at the NYSE.

Following this price discovery period, the opening price point is set, and the trading day continues. The stock is open for public trading.


💡 Quick Tip: The best stock trading app? That’s a personal preference, of course. Generally speaking, though, a great app is one with an intuitive interface and powerful features to help make trades quickly and easily.

Post-IPO Trading

In an ideal situation for the company and the underwriters, the stock’s closing price is relatively close to the opening price on opening day. This means the shares were priced accurately for what investors are willing to pay and the company had an appropriate valuation.

However, the IPO price isn’t necessarily a good indicator of the value of a stock. Broader market interest in the stock is impossible to plan for, and IPO conditions differ from the company’s long-term presence in the market.

IPO Price vs Opening Price: Similarities & Differences

Many analysts use the terms IPO price and opening price interchangeably when discussing a newly public company. However, there is a distinction between the two price points.

The IPO price is the price at which a company’s shares are first offered to institutional and accredited investors. The underwriters of the IPO sell the newly issued public share to these investors and clients at the initial public offering price.

In contrast, the opening price is the price at which the stock trades when it first begins trading on the stock market. The two prices are usually very close, but the opening price may be higher or lower than the IPO price.

Do IPO Stocks Always Rise?

IPO stocks don’t always rise in price once they are available for public trading. Many highly talked-about IPOs have disappointed in their opening weeks. This may be because investors feel these companies are overvalued and don’t want to risk putting money into them when they haven’t yet shown a profit.

It can take time for a stock to increase following an IPO, so the initial sale isn’t necessarily an indicator of long-term success or failure. The initial stock offering doesn’t always result in an immediate rise, but the influx of new capital can allow the company to grow.

Many stocks experienced tumultuous action for months before seeing a steadier climb. As an investor, looking for companies with a solid team and business plan, rather than just hype and a high valuation, can result in long-term portfolio growth.

How to Invest in IPOs

You can expose yourself to IPO stocks through an exchange-traded fund (ETF). Certain ETFs offer a weighted balance of newly public stocks and are adjusted over time. By diversifying your portfolio, you benefit from any gains while avoiding steep losses.

Also, some online brokerages, like SoFi, offer IPO investing for retail investors.

But, as mentioned above, IPOs can be very volatile. Although there is potential for significant returns, investors can also see severe losses in the weeks and months after a company goes public.

Rather than investing immediately, you can wait a quarter or six months to see how a company’s stock fluctuates following the IPO and then decide whether to invest. Stocks can often fall to form a base price before beginning to rise again.

Recommended: How to Find Upcoming IPO Stocks Before Listing Day

The Takeaway

It’s exciting when a company opens up to public investment. Although the IPO price is set as part of the lengthy IPO process, once the stock goes public all bets are off. Now the market determines the stock price, and the valuation of the company itself.

That’s one reason it can be challenging for most investors to know when and how to add new IPO stocks to their portfolios. Ultimately, investing in newly public stocks can be risky; the decision should be based on financial goals, time horizon, and risk tolerance.

Whether you’re curious about exploring IPOs, or interested in traditional stocks and exchange-traded funds (ETFs), you can get started by opening an account on the SoFi Invest® brokerage platform. On SoFi Invest, eligible SoFi members have the opportunity to trade IPO shares, and there are no account minimums for those with an Active Investing account. As with any investment, it's wise to consider your overall portfolio goals in order to assess whether IPO investing is right for you, given the risks of volatility and loss.

Invest with as little as $5 with a SoFi Active Investing account.

FAQ

Is it good to buy at IPO price?

Like all investments, there is risk in buying a stock when it goes public. IPOs can be suitable investments if the stock price increases after the IPO, but there is also a risk that the stock price could decrease. When buying a stock at an IPO price, investors don’t have the benefit of history to help analyze the stock.

How is an IPO price determined?

The IPO price is the initial public offering price of a stock. The IPO price is the price the underwriters will sell stock to institutional and accredited investors. The investment bank that works with the company going public determines the IPO price.

Can you lose money on an IPO?

Yes. An investor can lose money on an IPO if the company’s stock price falls below the price at which the investor bought the shares.


SoFi Invest®
INVESTMENTS ARE NOT FDIC INSURED • ARE NOT BANK GUARANTEED • MAY LOSE VALUE
SoFi Invest encompasses two distinct companies, with various products and services offered to investors as described below: Individual customer accounts may be subject to the terms applicable to one or more of these platforms.
1) Automated Investing and advisory services are provided by SoFi Wealth LLC, an SEC-registered investment adviser (“SoFi Wealth“). Brokerage services are provided to SoFi Wealth LLC by SoFi Securities LLC.
2) Active Investing and brokerage services are provided by SoFi Securities LLC, Member FINRA (www.finra.org)/SIPC(www.sipc.org). Clearing and custody of all securities are provided by APEX Clearing Corporation.
For additional disclosures related to the SoFi Invest platforms described above please visit SoFi.com/legal.
Neither the Investment Advisor Representatives of SoFi Wealth, nor the Registered Representatives of SoFi Securities are compensated for the sale of any product or service sold through any SoFi Invest platform.

Investing in an Initial Public Offering (IPO) involves substantial risk, including the risk of loss. Further, there are a variety of risk factors to consider when investing in an IPO, including but not limited to, unproven management, significant debt, and lack of operating history. For a comprehensive discussion of these risks please refer to SoFi Securities’ IPO Risk Disclosure Statement. IPOs offered through SoFi Securities are not a recommendation and investors should carefully read the offering prospectus to determine whether an offering is consistent with their investment objectives, risk tolerance, and financial situation.

New offerings generally have high demand and there are a limited number of shares available for distribution to participants. Many customers may not be allocated shares and share allocations may be significantly smaller than the shares requested in the customer’s initial offer (Indication of Interest). For SoFi’s allocation procedures please refer to IPO Allocation Procedures.


Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

SOIN0623083

Read more
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