What Determines a Stock Price?

By Laurel Tincher · May 30, 2023 · 6 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. 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.

What Determines a Stock Price?

Stock share prices go up and down throughout each trading day, and on a basic level, share prices for stocks traded on public stock exchanges are determined through supply and demand. Demand is determined by expectations and emotions.

What this means is if there is less supply of a stock, there may be more demand for it since it’s more rare. In that situation, the price of the stock will rise. Conversely, if there is more supply and less demand, the stock price will decrease. If either of these trends continues for a lengthened period of time, it can lead to a bull or bear market in which there’s an ongoing trend of increasing or decreasing prices.

7 Factors That Determine Stock Price

Beyond the basic principles of supply and demand, there are other factors that contribute to changes in stock prices. Those include investor behavior, the news cycle and earnings data, and more.

Investor Behavior

A current stock price is based on a prediction of the future success of a company. Hypothetically, if investors have reason to believe that a company will be successful in the future, they will invest in the company, causing the price of shares to increase. Similarly, if the outlook for a company is negative, investors may sell off the shares they own, causing the price to decrease.

Basically, if a few million people think that Company X is going to be successful in the near future and that shares of Company X will see price appreciation, that will lead them to buy the stock and its price will increase.

Emotions such as fear, panic, anxiety, greed, and hope can have a significant impact on investor behavior. This is the basis of the field of behavioral finance. There are a few different ways investors try to predict the future success of companies.

Company News and Data

You should know that stock price predictions can be made based on reading charts and making calculations, as well as looking at news stories, fundamental analysis like reading over company earnings and reports, and other information. News about changes in management, production, scandals, and other stories can cause share prices to quickly change.

World Events

Beyond news and outlooks specifically related to companies, outside factors can also influence investor behavior. For instance, a presidential election, a pandemic, political unrest, or signs of a recession can create panic in the market, influencing investors to sell off stock shares in order to protect from losses or put their money into safer investments.

Usually there is some up or down price movement in stock prices, and some stocks are more volatile than others. It’s rare for prices to completely stop moving or remain static. It’s also rare for prices to drastically increase or decrease suddenly, but this is what happens during a market crash.

A market crash can happen when many investors begin to sell, creating a snowball effect where more and more investors pull their money out of the stock market. At that point, the market could crash, resulting in actual losses that wouldn’t have occurred if people hadn’t sold.

Stock Buybacks

Another factor that can affect stock price is company buybacks of stocks. Companies will sometimes buy back their own stock from investors, thereby reducing the supply of shares to the public. They do this in an attempt to increase stock prices. If companies issue more shares of stock, they are then increasing the supply, which can cause the price to decrease.

Primary and Secondary Markets

When some companies first start selling stock to the public, they hold an IPO, or initial public offering. At the time of the IPO, an initial share price is set and investors can begin to buy the stock at that price. After the IPO ends, the stock gets listed on stock exchanges and the price starts to fluctuate as shares get bought and sold — and supply and demand begin to play a role in share price.

When companies don’t have an IPO, their shares get bought and sold privately, in which case share price is determined between the buyer and seller.

Stock Valuation

The valuation of a stock is made by looking at the company’s past and projected earnings, large trades made by institutional investors, overall market trends of the S&P 500, and ratios and calculations made by analysts.

Four ratios and calculations that are used to determine the valuation of a stock are price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio, price-to-book (P/B ratio), price-to-earnings-to-growth (PEG) ratio, and dividend yield. These calculations can help investors figure out whether a stock is currently under- or overvalued.

Bid and Ask Price

A share price ultimately gets determined through the bid, ask, and sale price on stock exchanges. The bid price is the maximum amount an investor will pay for shares of a stock, while the ask price is the lowest price a seller will accept. When the two prices match up, a sale is made, and that price sets the new price per share of the stock. Ultimately it gets down to what someone is willing to pay and if a stock owner is willing to sell to them at that price.

What someone is willing to pay or sell for is determined by psychological and market factors, as discussed. If a buyer thinks the stock is undervalued at the asking price, they will buy, and vice versa. Generally the difference between the bid and ask price isn’t very large, but if a stock doesn’t have a large trading volume it can be.

Companies that are a similar size or have a similar valuation can have very different share prices because the number of shares each company issues can differ greatly. Because of different market caps and numbers of liquid shares, the share price doesn’t say much about the actual value of the company, and one can’t use share prices to compare companies. However, the share price does reflect what investors currently think the stock of a company is worth.

How to Handle Changes in Stock Price

Attempting to time the market is extremely challenging, and can result in significant losses, not to mention anxiety. Once an investor sells a stock, they are then in the difficult position of trying to figure out when and whether to buy back into it at a lower price, if it even continues to decrease in value. Likewise, they could sell at what they think is the peak of the market, only to watch the price continue to rise.

Historically, the stock market has continued to rise over the long term, with plenty of ups and downs along the way. Although past trends are never a guarantee of future outcomes, it’s likely that investors with a longer time horizon, who are willing to hold onto their stocks throughout up and down cycles, will eventually see positive returns.

That said, market volatility can provide opportunities to invest when the stock market is down, or sell at higher prices, especially if they were already considering buying or selling a stock.

The Takeaway

Ultimately, supply and demand drive stock prices — which is informed by market conditions, world events, and investor behavior, among other influences. Although there is no way to look into the future to predict share prices, investors tend to look at past performance, charts, and market trends to attempt to predict price movements. In general, it’s best not to try and time the market, but to focus on building a solid long-term portfolio that will grow over time.

There are numerous investing strategies to explore, too, and some of them don’t involve investors worrying too much about stock prices in the immediate term.

Ready to invest in your goals? It’s easy to get started when you open an Active Invest 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.

SoFi Invest®


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 $25 within 30 days of opening the account. Probability of customer receiving $1,000 is 0.028%. See full terms and conditions.


TLS 1.2 Encrypted
Equal Housing Lender