Overweight Stock, Explained

By AJ Smith · February 22, 2024 · 8 minute read

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Overweight Stock, Explained

When a financial analyst rates a stock as overweight, it means that the analyst believes an overweight stock will likely outperform other stocks in its industry over the next six to 12 months. Conversely, if they describe a stock as underweight, they believe that it will perform poorly in the future.

It may be helpful to think of these terms as pointers: as if an industry specialist were saying, “You might want to overweight Stock X in your portfolio” or “maybe you should under-weight Stock Y.” These ratings are typically the result of factors in the news or pertaining to a specific company’s prospects. But the terms “overweight” and “underweight” also refer to a stock’s weighting in a relevant index or benchmark.

What Is an Overweight Stock?

As noted, an overweight stock is one that analysts believe will outperform others in its sector or market segment in the near future. Similarly, overweight stock is a moniker that may also describe a specific security’s weighting in a portfolio, and one that analysts think investors should buy more of – so, its meaning can be contextual in certain situations.

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Types of Ratings and Where They Came From

To understand stock ratings related to weight, it’s important to know that market indexes assign a weight to the investments they track to be sure that the index accurately reflects the performance of that market sector.

For example, the S&P 500® tracks 500 large-cap U.S. companies. The companies in the index — called the constituents — are weighted by market capitalization. A company’s market cap is calculated by multiplying the current share price by the total number of outstanding shares.

Companies in that index are weighted based on the proportion of the overall index their market cap represents. Other indexes may use a different weighting system. The Dow Jones Industrial Average, for example, tracks 30 blue chip companies and weights them based on stock price. Companies with a higher share price are given more weight than those with lower prices.

Because of these different weighting systems, it’s important to understand that an overweight to a particular stock with regards to one index may not be the same when it comes to another.

Overweight Stocks

When an analyst rates Stock X as overweight, it’s generally a positive sign. First, they believe Stock X is likely to outperform its benchmark index, or even the market as a whole, depending on market conditions, so investors should consider holding more of the stock.

Bear in mind that an “overweight stock” rating doesn’t necessarily mean that stock is a juggernaut. In a down market, being overweight could simply mean the company might not lose as much ground as its peers, or it might grow less slowly than its peers.

Underweight Stocks

When an analyst rates Stock Y as underweight, the analyst believes that Stock Y is likely to underperform its benchmark, and investors should consider holding less of this stock.

Equal Weight Stocks

When an analyst gives an equal weight rating to a stock, that simply means it’s in line with the overall benchmark. Again, when considering these ratings it’s important to keep in mind the overall context of the market, and what these ratings mean to analysts.

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Example of an Overweight Stock

A very simple example of an overweight stock could be when a stock, Stock X, is selling for $50, but experts and analysts think it’s undervalued and should trade for $75, it could be overweight.

Further, an overweight stock rating can be taken in two ways: First, that the stock will outperform its benchmark index and second that investors may want to take advantage of the increase in price.

When an analyst indicates their belief that a stock will appreciate, they may also state a potential time frame and price target for the stock. So, if Stock X is trading at $75 per share, and the company releases new earnings data that’s positive, an analyst might rate the stock as overweight, with a price target of $100 per share in the coming year.

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The Downside of Weighting Stocks

One critique of this rating system is that no analyst, of course, can recommend how many shares investors should buy. It’s simply not possible for analysts to know whether Investor A’s portfolio might benefit from an additional 100 shares of Stock X, while Investor B might want to buy 1,000 shares of Stock X.

As a result, it’s incumbent on individual investor’s themselves to keep an eye on how relevant an overweight stock rating might be for their specific allocation. Buying more of Stock X could, in theory, create an imbalance and reduce a portfolio’s overall diversification. So while an overweight stock might be a good thing, an overweight portfolio usually is not.

How Can Investors Interpret Overweight Stocks?

At first glance, the terms overweight and underweight may seem more or less synonymous with “buy” and “sell” — in that case, why don’t analysts use these more straightforward terms?

In fact, the terms overweight and underweight do have a slightly different connotation than simply to buy or sell a security. Rather, the terms suggest a recommendation that a portfolio hold more or less of a particular position than an index or other benchmarks would suggest.

It may mean acquiring more, or selling some, of a particular investment. But it wouldn’t necessarily mean buying something new or selling all of a position. For example, if your portfolio has an allocation to tech stocks, and an analyst recommends overweighting one of those stocks, you may want to buy more of that company. Or you may not need more growth in your tech holdings, so you might look for an overweight stock.

Also, analysts aren’t always comfortable giving specific directions to buy or sell certain securities. The terms overweight and underweight are more like offering guidance: “Here’s what I think of Stock X or Stock Y. I’ll let the investor take it from here.”

In many cases an overweight or underweight recommendation might not be very useful for investors. For example, if an analyst recommends an overweight to a certain commodity but an investor’s portfolio doesn’t hold any commodities, this information may not have much bearing on their situation.

Can a Portfolio Be Considered Overweight?

Overweight can refer to a portfolio that holds more of a stock or other investments than it theoretically should. For individual investors, this might mean that more of a portfolio is allocated to stock than the investor intended.

For example, say an investor has a portfolio allocation in which 70% of its allocation is held in stock and 30% is held in bonds. If the stock market goes up, the proportion of the portfolio held in stock may grow beyond the 70% mark. At that point, the portfolio may be described as overweight in stocks, and an investor may want to rebalance to bring it in line with their initial allocation plan.

It may come as no surprise that the opposite of an overweight allocation is an underweight allocation. For example, if the stock allocation in the portfolio above fell below 70%, that allocation could be described as underweight in stocks.

The term can also apply in a narrower sense. For example, a stock portfolio could hold too much stock in one company, sector, or geographical region. In each case the holding could be described as overweight.

Professional fund managers may also use overweight to describe portfolios they work with that are off track with their index, including mutual funds, exchange-traded funds, and index funds. From time to time, a fund may get out of line with its benchmark index by holding more or less of an investment that index tracks.

For example, say an index fund is built to track the S&P 500. To track the index, fund managers will usually attempt to hold every stock in the index. Additionally, they will try to match the proportion of each individual company their fund holds to the index as well. So if stock A represents 5% of the original index, the fund will also hold 5% of stock A.

Some funds have a little bit of wiggle room in terms of how far they can stray from the index. Some might be allowed to hold more or less stocks if they think the stocks will outperform or underperform. When they hold more than the index, the managers are taking an overweight position. And when they hold less than the index, the managers are taking an underweight position.

The Takeaway

Overweight stocks are those that may be undervalued by the market. When an analyst gives a stock an overweight rating, broadly speaking it could be a good thing. If the analyst is correct, and the stock is indeed poised to perform better than its benchmark — maybe even better than the market as a whole — investors may want to buy that stock.

But the necessary caveat is that it all depends on context — the context of the market, and the context of an investor’s portfolio overall. You don’t want to buy a stock that could throw your allocation off, and make your portfolio overweight in a way that’s not ideal.

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Is overweight stock good?

An overweight stock can be good for investors looking for a relative deal, but it may not be a good thing if the investor already owns shares of the stock.

What is the difference between overweight and outperform stocks?

Outperform stocks and overweight stocks are similar, and the terms are often used interchangeably. But generally, “outperform” may describe a stock that’s undervalued or expected to offer solid returns in the future, but perhaps perform not quite as well as an “overweight” stock.

What is the difference between buy and overweight?

On an analysts’ rating system, “buy” and “overweight” stocks are rated differently, with “buy” being a higher rating – though both ratings are positive.

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