Examining the Different Types of Stocks

By Amanda Holden · June 16, 2023 · 6 minute read

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Examining the Different Types of Stocks

There are numerous types of stocks, categorized by company characteristics, size, region, sector, and more. Equipped with an understanding of different stock types, an investor can start building a diversified portfolio. Though all stocks can experience volatility and potentially lose value, holding a mix of different types of shares can mitigate the risk of being too heavily invested in any one category.

An Overview Of Stocks

A stock represents a percentage of ownership in a publicly traded company. So essentially, investors can own small pieces or “shares” of companies.

Generating returns via the stock market can usually happen in one of two ways. First, the value of the stock can increase over time, something known as capital appreciation. The second is through dividend payments, where companies make cash payouts periodically to all owners of that company’s stock. Some people make investments based on a company’s ability to pay consistent dividends, or “income.” Utility and telephone companies often fit into this bucket.

When you own a stock, you hold equity (or ownership) in that company. That’s why stocks are sometimes referred to as equities. Each individual share represents an equal proportion of ownership. Owners of stocks are often referred to as stockholders or shareholders.

💡 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.

Stock Classifications

Here are some of the ways different stocks are categorized:

Common stock represents shares of ownership in a corporation. When an investor receives common shares, they are typically also granted voting rights to the company and can participate in shareholder voting processes — usually one vote for each share.

Preferred stocks make regular dividend payments, but holders of preferred shares often have zero or limited voting rights. If a company becomes financially insolvent however, preferred stockholders have a claim on assets before common shareholders do.

Exchange-traded funds (ETFs) group multiple securities into a single share. For instance, a stock ETF will hold numerous companies, while a bond ETF can hold many individual bonds, whether it’s a collection of Treasurys or high-yield debt. ETFs are popular because of the cheap, instant diversification they offer.

Initial Public Offerings (IPOs) is the process of a private company listing and debuting on a public stock exchange. Investors can buy IPO shares on their first day of trading.

Special Purpose Acquisition Companies (SPACs) are shell companies that go public on the stock exchange, and then try to find a private operating business to purchase.

Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) are companies that own and operate real estate, usually focusing on one type of property, such as warehouses, hotels or office buildings. There are pros & cons to investing in REITs. For example, one pro is that they tend to pay consistent dividends. Cons include sensitivity to interest rates, and taxed dividends.

Different Market-Caps

The sizes of stocks are classified by the market capitalization of the company’s publicly traded stock. Market cap is calculated by multiplying the stock price by the total number of outstanding shares.

Generally speaking, larger companies tend to be older, more established, and have greater international exposure — so a higher percentage of a large-cap company’s revenue comes from overseas. Meanwhile, smaller-cap stocks tend to be newer, less established and more domestically oriented. Smaller-cap companies can be riskier but also offer more growth potential.

While the market-caps that determine which companies are small or large can shift, here’s a breakdown that gives some rough parameters.

Micro-Cap: $50 million to $300 million

Small-Cap: $300 million to $2 billion

Mid-Cap: $2 billion to $10 billion

Large-Cap: $10 billion or higher

Mega-Cap: $200 billion or higher

Stock Style Categories

Stocks are also sometimes classified by styles of investing. These categories often have to do with how that company makes money and how the stock is valued. You may often hear this associated when discussing value vs growth stocks.

Value stocks are stocks that are considered to be trading below their actual worth. Investors hope that by buying companies that are priced below their “true” value, they can profit as the gap narrows over time.

Growth stocks are companies that are growing at a fast pace or those that are expected to continue growing at a faster rate than other stocks or competitors. Investors can encounter higher valuations in growth investing.

💡 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.

Stocks By Sector

Additionally, stocks are often grouped by the industry that that company works within. According to the Global Industry Classification Standard (GICS), there are 11 recognized sectors, with numerous industries within those sectors. They include (but are not limited to):

Energy: Energy equipment and services, oil, gas, and consumable fuels

Materials: Chemicals, construction materials, containers and packaging, metals and mining

Industrials: Aerospace and defense, building products, machinery, construction and engineering, electrical equipment, industrial conglomerates

Consumer Discretionary: Automobiles, automobile components, household durables, leisure products

Consumer Staples: Food products, beverage, tobacco, household products

Health Care: Health care equipment and services, pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, life sciences

Financials: Banks, insurance, consumer finance, capital markets, financial services

Information Technology: IT services, software, communications equipment

Communication Services: Diversified telecommunication services, media, entertainment

Utilities: Electric utilities, gas utilities, water utilities, independent power and renewable electricity producers

Real Estate: Real estate management and development, various REITs (retail, residential, office, etc.)

Stocks by Country

Different overseas stocks can be classified by the country or region in which they’re headquartered, even if the company’s operations are global. Individuals looking to invest in international stocks have found that they can do so easily with ETFs, which hold numerous foreign companies within a single share.

Regions that are commonly used in the world of stock investing are:

EAFE is an acronym which stands for Europe, Australasia, and the Far East. Investors may see this used when making investment choices, as the MSCI EAFE is a common index used for international stock funds. These countries are all “developed” nations, which means they have established financial markets, stable political climates, and mature economies.

Emerging-market stocks, which stocks with companies based out of countries whose economies are described as developing. Brazil, Russia, Mexico, China, and India are just a few emerging markets. Emerging markets may be riskier to invest in but may pose an opportunity for high rates of growth.

The Takeaway

There are numerous types of stocks on the market, and it can be important for investors to understand the differences between them. The stock market can be volatile and prone to dramatic declines, but in order to shield themselves from the risks, investors often create diversified portfolios by stocking their holdings through various different stock types.

Diversification is easier to do if an investor understands the different types of stocks that exist in the U.S. equity market. From mega-cap stocks to ETFs to emerging-market companies, there are a myriad of investing opportunities in the equity market.

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), 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.

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Investment Risk: Diversification can help reduce some investment risk. It cannot guarantee profit, or fully protect in a down market.

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