Pay off high-rate debt with a personal loan and save thousands. Learn more.

How to Analyze Stocks: 4 Ways

By Laurel Tincher · February 27, 2024 · 13 minute read

We’re here to help! First and foremost, SoFi Learn strives to be a beneficial resource to you as you navigate your financial journey. Read more We develop content that covers a variety of financial topics. Sometimes, that content may include information about products, features, or services that SoFi does not provide. We aim to break down complicated concepts, loop you in on the latest trends, and keep you up-to-date on the stuff you can use to help get your money right. Read less

How to Analyze Stocks: 4 Ways

When it comes to investing in stocks, there’s no single way to analyze stocks to find a sure winner. That being said, there are many methods that ordinary investors can use to find stocks that are trading at a discount to their underlying value.

The first step in how to analyze a stock before buying is reviewing financial statements. From there, investors can use various methods of analysis to assess investment opportunities and potentially identify worthwhile investments.

Key Points

•   There are four common methods of analyzing stocks: technical analysis, qualitative analysis, quantitative analysis, and fundamental analysis.

•   Technical analysis focuses on supply and demand patterns in stock charts to make investment decisions.

•   Qualitative analysis examines factors like a company’s leadership, product, and industry to evaluate investment opportunities.

•   Quantitative analysis uses data and numerical figures to predict price movements in stocks.

•   Fundamental analysis looks at a company’s financial health and value to determine if its stock is underor overvalued.

Why Analyzing Stocks Is Important

The process of stock analysis can reveal important information about a company and its history, allowing investors to make more informed decisions about buying or selling stocks. Analyzing stocks can help investors identify which investment opportunities they believe will deliver strong returns. Further, stock analysis can assist investors in spotting potentially bad investments.

Whether you’re strategy involves short vs. long term investing, or day trading, analyzing stocks is going to be important.

💡 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.

Understanding Financial Statements

The first step in understanding stock analysis is knowing the basics of business reporting. There are three main types of financial statements that an investor may need to look at when doing analysis:

•   Income statement: This statement shows a company’s profits, which are calculated by subtracting expenses from revenue.

•   Balance sheet: The balance sheet compares a company’s assets, liabilities, and stockholder equity.

•   Statement of cash flows: This statement outlines how a company is spending and earning its money.

In addition to these statements, a company’s earnings report contains information that can be useful for doing qualitative analysis. The annual report includes the company’s plans for the future and stock value predictions.

Get up to $1,000 in stock when you fund a new Active Invest account.*

Access stock trading, options, auto investing, IRAs, and more. Get started in just a few minutes.


*Customer must fund their Active Invest account with at least $10 within 30 days of opening the account. Probability of customer receiving $1,000 is 0.028%. See full terms and conditions.

4 Ways to Analyze a Stock

The next step in stock evaluation is deciding which type of analysis to do. Here’s a look at some of the different methods for how to analyze a stock.

1. Technical Analysis

Technical analysis is a method for analyzing stocks that looks directly at a stock’s supply and demand in order to make investing decisions. This form of analysis takes the stance that all information needed is present within stock charts and the analysis of history and trends.

Some key focal points of technical analysis are:

•   Stock prices move in trends.

•   History repeats itself.

•   Stock price history can be used to make price predictions.

•   Stock price contains all relevant information for making investing decisions.

•   Technical analysis does not consider intrinsic value.

Trend indicators are one of the most important parts of technical analysis. These indicators attempt to show traders whether a stock will go up or down in value. Uptrends mean higher highs and higher lowers, whereas downtrends mean lower lows and lower highs. Some common trend tools include linear regression, parabolic SAR, MACD, and moving averages.

Technical analysis also uses leading indicators and lagging indicators. Leading indicators signal before new trends occur, while lagging indicators signal after a trend has ended. These indicators look at information such as volume, price, price movement, open, and close.

There can be some pros and cons to using technical analysis, however, which can be important to consider when factoring in your risk tolerance.

Day traders tend to focus on technical analysis to try to capitalize on short-term price fluctuations. But because technical analysis generally focuses on short-term fluctuations in price, it’s not as often used for finding long-term investment opportunities.

Further, while technical analysis relies on objective and consistent data, it can produce false signals, particularly during trading conditions that aren’t ideal. This method of analysis also fails to take into consideration key fundamentals about individual shares or the stock market.

2. Qualitative Stock Analysis

When considering how to analyze a stock, it’s also a good idea to look at whether the company behind the stock is really a good business. Qualitative analysis looks into factors like a company’s leadership team, product, and the overall industry it’s a part of.

A few key qualitative metrics to look at are:

•   Competitive advantage: Does the company have a unique edge that will help it be successful in the long term? If a company has patents, a unique manufacturing method, or broad distribution, these can be positive competitive advantages.

•   Business model: Analyzing a business model includes looking at products, services, brand identity, and customers to get a sense of what the company is offering.

•   Strong leadership: Even a great idea and product can fail with poor management. Looking into the credentials of the CEO and top executives of a company can help in evaluating whether it’s a good investment.

•   Industry trends: If an industry is struggling, or looks like it may in the future, an investor may decide not to invest in companies in that industry. On the other hand, new and growing industries may be better investments. This is not always the case, as there are strong companies in weak industries, and vice versa.

3. Quantitative Analysis

Similar to technical analysis, quantitative analysis looks at data and numbers in an attempt to predict future price movements. Specifically, quantitative analysis evaluates data, such as a company’s revenues, price-to-earnings ratio, and earnings-per-share ratio, and uses statistical modeling and mathematical techniques to predict a stock’s value.

The upside is that this financial data is publicly available, and it creates an objective, consistent starting point. It can help with identifying patterns, and it can be useful in assessing risk. However, it requires sifting through a lot of data. Further, there’s no certainty when it comes to patterns, which can change.

4. Fundamental Analysis

Fundamental analysis looks at a company from a basic financial standpoint. This gives investors a sense of the company’s financial health and whether its stock may be under- or overvalued. Fundamental analysis takes the stance that a company’s stock price doesn’t necessarily equate to its value.

There are a number of key tools for fundamental analysis that investors might want to familiarize themselves with and use to get a fuller picture of a stock.

Earnings Per Share (EPS)

One of the main goals for many investors is to buy into profitable companies. Earnings per share, or EPS, tells investors how much profit a company earns per each share of stock, and how much investors are benefiting from those earnings. Companies report EPS quarterly, and the figure is calculated by dividing a company’s net income, minus dividend payouts, by the number of outstanding shares.

Understanding earnings per share can give investors guidance on a stock’s potential movement. On a basic level, a high EPS is a good sign, but it’s especially important that a company shows a high or growing EPS over time. The reason for this is that a company might have a temporarily high EPS if they cut some expenses or sell off assets, but that wouldn’t be a good indicator of the actual profitability of their business.

Likewise, a negative EPS over time is an indicator that an investor may not want to buy a stock.

Revenue

While EPS relates directly to a company’s stock, revenue can show investors how well a company is doing outside the markets. Positive and increasing revenues are an indicator that a company is growing and expanding.

Some large companies, especially tech companies, have increasing revenues over time with a negative EPS because they continue to feed profits back into the growing business. These companies can see significant stock value increases despite their lack of profit.

One can also look at revenue growth, which tracks changes in revenue over time.

Price-to-earnings (P/E) Ratio

One of the most common methods of analyzing stocks is to look at the P/E ratio, which compares a company’s current stock price to its earnings per share. P/E is found by dividing the price of one share of a stock by its EPS. Generally, a lower P/E ratio is a good sign.

Using this ratio is a good way to compare different stocks. One can also compare an individual company’s P/E ratio with an index like the S&P 500 Index to get a sense of how the company is doing relative to the overall market.

The downside of P/E is that it doesn’t include growth.

Price-Earnings-Growth (PEG) Ratio

Since P/E doesn’t include growth, the PEG ratio is another popular tool for analyzing stocks and evaluating stock performance. To look at EPS and revenue together, investors can use the price-earnings-growth ratio, or PEG.

PEG is calculated by dividing a stock’s P/E by its projected 12-month forward revenue growth rate. In general, a PEG lower than 1 is a good sign, and a PEG higher than 2 indicates that a stock may be overpriced.

PEG can also be used to make predictions about the future. By looking at PEG for different time periods in the past, investors can make a more informed guess about what the stock may do next.

Price-to-Sales Ratio (P/S)

The P/S ratio compares a company’s stock price to its revenues. It’s found by dividing stock price by revenues. This can be useful when comparing competitors — if the P/S is low, it might be more advantageous to buy.

Debt-Equity Ratio

Although profits and revenue are important to look at, so is a company’s debt and its ability to pay it back. If a company goes into more and more debt in order to continue growing, and they’re unable to pay it back, it’s not a good sign.

Debt-equity ratio is found by dividing a company’s total liabilities (debt) by its shareholder equity. In general, a debt-equity ratio under 0.1 is a good sign, while a debt-equity ratio higher than 0.5 can be a red flag for the future.

Debt-to-EBITDA

Similar to debt-to-equity, debt-to-EBITDA measures the ability a company has to pay off its debts. EBITDA stands for earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortization.

A high debt-to-EBITDA ratio indicates that a company has a high amount of debt that it may not be able to pay off.

Dividend Yield

While a stock’s price can vary significantly from day to day, dividend payments are a way that investors can earn a consistent amount of money each quarter or year. Not every company pays out dividends, but large, established companies sometimes pay out some of their earnings to shareholders rather than reinvesting the money into their business.

Dividend yield is calculated by dividing a company’s annual dividend payment by its share price. The average dividend yield for S&P 500 companies is around 2%.

One thing to note is that dividends are not guaranteed — companies can change their dividend amounts at any time. So if a company has a particularly high dividend yield, it may not stay that way.

Price-to-Book Ratio (P/B)

Price-to-book ratio, or P/B, compares a company’s stock market value to its book value. This is a useful tool for finding companies that are currently undervalued, meaning those that have a significant amount of growth but still relatively low stock prices.

P/B ratio is found by dividing the market price of a stock by the company’s book value of equity. The book value of equity is found by subtracting the company’s total liabilities from its assets.

Company Reports and Projections

When companies release quarterly and annual earnings reports, many of them include projections for upcoming revenue and EPS. These reports are a useful tool for investors to get a sense of a stock’s future. They can also affect stock price as other shareholders and investors will react to the news in the report.

Professional Analysis

Wall Street analysts regularly release reports about the overall stock market as well as individual companies and stocks. These reports include information such as 12-month targets, stock ratings, company comparisons, and financial projections. By reading multiple reports, investors may start to see common trends.

While analysts aren’t always correct and can’t predict global events that affect the markets, these reports can be a useful tool for investors. They can keep them up-to-date on any key happenings that may be on the horizon for particular companies. The information in the reports also can result in stock prices going up or down, since investors will react to the predictions.

Quantitative vs Qualitative Analysis

Here’s a quick rundown looking at the key differences between quantitative and qualitative analysis. Again, this can be important when weighing your risk need to knows as an investor.

Quantitative vs. Qualitative Analysis

Quantitative Analysis

Qualitative Analysis

Looks at data and numerical figures to predict price movements Looks at business factors such as leadership, product, and industry
May require sifting through a lot of data, and may be difficult for some investors Metrics include business models, competitive advantage, and industry trends
Concerned more with the “quantity” and hard data a business produces Concerned more with the “quality” of a business

Pros and Cons of Doing Your Own Stock Analysis

If you feel like you can do a little stock analysis on your own, there are some pros and cons to it.

Pros

Perhaps the most obvious pro to doing your own stock analysis is that you don’t need to pay someone else to do it, you can do it on your own schedule, and learn as you go. You can develop knowledge that’ll likely help you as you continue to invest in the future. There are also numerous tools out there that you can use to analyze stocks which may not have been around in years or decades past.

Cons

Stock analysis can be an involved process, which can require a lot of investment in and of itself — both monetarily (if you’re using paid tools) and in terms of time. Depending on how deep you want to go, too, it can be a complex process. You may get frustrated or burnt out, or even make a mistake that leads to a bad investment decision.

💡 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).

Buying Stocks With SoFi

There are a number of ways to analyze stocks, including technical, fundamental, quantitative, and qualitative analysis. The more an investor gets comfortable with terms like P/E ratio and earnings reports, the more informed they can be before making any decisions. Stock analysis is an involved process, however, and may be above the typical investors’ head and ability.

It is important to do your research and homework in relation to your investments, however. If you feel like you could use some guidance or a helping hand, speaking with a financial professional is never really a bad idea.

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.

FAQ

What is the best way to analyze a stock?

There’s no “best” way to analyze stocks. The right option for an investor will depend on their personal preferences and investing objectives. And remember, there’s no need to just use one method to analyze a stock — often, analysts will combine different methods of analysis to generate a more robust stock analysis.

What are key indicators to look for when analyzing a stock?

There are a ton of potential indicators that investors can look at, but some broad indicators that investors can start with include stock price history, moving averages, a company’s competitive advantages, business models, and industry trends.

What is an example of stock analysis?

A very, very basic example of stock analysis would include looking at a stock’s share price, comparing it to its historical averages and moving averages, overall market conditions, and looking at the company’s financial statements to try and gauge where it might move next.

You may also be interested in:

How to Pick Stocks: Essential Steps for Investors

How To Know When to Buy a Stock

Using Fundamental Analysis to Choose Stocks


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.

Claw Promotion: Customer must fund their Active Invest account with at least $10 within 30 days of opening the account. Probability of customer receiving $1,000 is 0.028%. See full terms and conditions.

SOIN1222015

All your finances.
All in one app.

SoFi QR code, Download now, scan this with your phone’s camera

All your finances.
All in one app.

App Store rating

SoFi iOS App, Download on the App Store
SoFi Android App, Get it on Google Play

TLS 1.2 Encrypted
Equal Housing Lender