Stocks Basics: What Causes Stock Prices To Change?
  1. Stocks Basics: Introduction
  2. Stocks Basics: What Are Stocks?
  3. Stocks Basics: Different Types Of Stocks
  4. Stocks Basics: How Stocks Trade
  5. Stocks Basics: What Causes Stock Prices To Change?
  6. Stocks Basics: Buying Stocks
  7. Stocks Basics: How to Read A Stock Table/Quote
  8. Stocks Basics: The Bulls, The Bears And The Farm
  9. Stocks Basics: Conclusion

Stocks Basics: What Causes Stock Prices To Change?


Stock prices change every day as a result of market forces. By this we mean that share prices change because of supply and demand. If more people want to buy a stock (demand) than sell it (supply), then the price moves up. Conversely, if more people wanted to sell a stock than buy it, there would be greater supply than demand, and the price would fall.

Understanding supply and demand is easy. What is difficult to comprehend is what makes people like a particular stock and dislike another stock. This comes down to figuring out what news is positive for a company and what news is negative. There are many answers to this problem and just about any investor you ask has their own ideas and strategies.

That being said, the principal theory is that the price movement of a stock indicates what investors feel a company is worth. Don't equate a company's value with the stock price. The value of a company is its market capitalization, which is the stock price multiplied by the number of shares outstanding. For example, a company that trades at $100 per share and has 1 million shares outstanding has a lesser value than a company that trades at $50 that has 5 million shares outstanding ($100 x 1 million = $100 million while $50 x 5 million = $250 million). To further complicate things, the price of a stock doesn't only reflect a company's current value, it also reflects the growth that investors expect in the future.

The most important factor that affects the value of a company is its earnings. Earnings are the profit a company makes, and in the long run no company can survive without them. It makes sense when you think about it. If a company never makes money, it isn't going to stay in business. Public companies are required to report their earnings four times a year (once each quarter). Wall Street watches with rabid attention at these times, which are referred to as earnings seasons. The reason behind this is that analysts base their future value of a company on their earnings projection. If a company's results surprise (are better than expected), the price jumps up. If a company's results disappoint (are worse than expected), then the price will fall.

Of course, it's not just earnings that can change the sentiment towards a stock (which, in turn, changes its price). It would be a rather simple world if this were the case! During the dotcom bubble, for example, dozens of internet companies rose to have market capitalizations in the billions of dollars without ever making even the smallest profit. As we all know, these valuations did not hold, and most internet companies saw their values shrink to a fraction of their highs. Still, the fact that prices did move that much demonstrates that there are factors other than current earnings that influence stocks. Investors have developed literally hundreds of these variables, ratios and indicators. Some you may have already heard of, such as the price/earnings ratio, while others are extremely complicated and obscure with names like Chaikin oscillator or moving average convergence divergence.

So, why do stock prices change? The best answer is that nobody really knows for sure. Some believe that it isn't possible to predict how stock prices will change, while others think that by drawing charts and looking at past price movements, you can determine when to buy and sell. The only thing we do know is that stocks are volatile and can change in price extremely rapidly.

The important things to grasp about this subject are the following:

1. At the most fundamental level, supply and demand in the market determines stock price.
2. Price times the number of shares outstanding (market capitalization) is the value of a company. Comparing just the share price of two companies is meaningless.
3. Theoretically, earnings are what affect investors' valuation of a company, but there are other indicators that investors use to predict stock price. Remember, it is investors' sentiments, attitudes and expectations that ultimately affect stock prices.
4. There are many theories that try to explain the way stock prices move the way they do. Unfortunately, there is no one theory that can explain everything.

Stocks Basics: Buying Stocks

  1. Stocks Basics: Introduction
  2. Stocks Basics: What Are Stocks?
  3. Stocks Basics: Different Types Of Stocks
  4. Stocks Basics: How Stocks Trade
  5. Stocks Basics: What Causes Stock Prices To Change?
  6. Stocks Basics: Buying Stocks
  7. Stocks Basics: How to Read A Stock Table/Quote
  8. Stocks Basics: The Bulls, The Bears And The Farm
  9. Stocks Basics: Conclusion
RELATED TERMS
  1. Outstanding Shares

    A company's stock currently held by all its shareholders, including ...
  2. Market Value

    The price an asset would fetch in the marketplace. Market value ...
  3. Market Value Of Equity

    The total dollar market value of all of a company's outstanding ...
  4. Market Capitalization

    The total dollar market value of all of a company's outstanding ...
  5. Market Price

    The current price at which an asset or service can be bought ...
  6. Equity Market

    The market in which shares are issued and traded, either through ...
RELATED FAQS
  1. What is a company's worth, and who determines its stock price?

    A company's worth - its total value - is its market capitalization, and it is represented by the company's stock price. Market ... Read Answer >>
  2. When does a growth stock turn into a value opportunity?

    Learn how fundamental analysts use valuation measures, such as the price-to-earnings ratio, to identify when a growth stock ... Read Answer >>
  3. Why do stock prices change following news reports?

    Stock prices move up and down every minute due to fluctuations in supply and demand. If more people want to buy a particular ... Read Answer >>
  4. How does the law of supply and demand affect the stock market?

    Find out how the law of supply and demand affects the stock market, and how it determines the prices of individual stocks ... Read Answer >>
  5. Where does the money I have invested in a company go when the stock price decreases?

    First, a quick review of stock basics: owning a stock means owning a portion (usually very small) of a company. Therefore, ... Read Answer >>
  6. Is maximizing stock price the same thing as maximizing profit?

    Simply put: yes. A company's stock price will factor in many different variables including the type of industry the firm ... Read Answer >>

You May Also Like

Hot Definitions
  1. Law Of Demand

    A microeconomic law that states that, all other factors being equal, as the price of a good or service increases, consumer ...
  2. Cost Of Debt

    The effective rate that a company pays on its current debt. This can be measured in either before- or after-tax returns; ...
  3. Yield Curve

    A line that plots the interest rates, at a set point in time, of bonds having equal credit quality, but differing maturity ...
  4. Stop-Limit Order

    An order placed with a broker that combines the features of stop order with those of a limit order. A stop-limit order will ...
  5. Keynesian Economics

    An economic theory of total spending in the economy and its effects on output and inflation. Keynesian economics was developed ...
  6. Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications ...

    A member-owned cooperative that provides safe and secure financial transactions for its members. Established in 1973, the ...
Trading Center