What is a Stock Idea?

A stock idea is the initial impetus to analyze a potential equity investment. A stock idea is the first step in a process of screening, research, and judgement that ultimately leads to a decision to invest or not invest in a given stock.

Key Takeaways

  • A stock idea is when the name of a stock first gets on your radar as an investor. 
  • Stock ideas can originate from many sources, including financial media, public announcements, or even just market rumors.
  • A stock idea begins a process of information gathering, analysis, screening, and decision-making as to whether or not to buy the stock.

Understanding a Stock Idea

Stock ideas can arise from any vector, including news, tips delivered by analysts, as well as rumors and suggestions through networks of friends or workers. The distance between a stock idea and a decision on its purchase depends upon an investor's capacity for risk, the amount of information readily available on the stock, the quality of the information, and a host of other issues. In other words, a prospective investor will likely have a lot more stock ideas than actual stock purchases, and in most cases, the idea will only represent the first step in a long chain of analysis leading to a purchase decision.

For example, a financial news segment might mention a list of stocks to watch in a specific industry segment. An analyst might even run down some rationales behind why those stocks might be undervalued or likely to perform in certain ways over a given period of time. A prospective investor might find that persuasive, but a wise investor would do significantly more research before actually pulling the trigger on a trade.

Screening Potential Stocks

The sheer amount of information available on any given stock can make the journey from idea to purchase time-consuming and difficult to navigate. Smart investors must be able to weed through the information available to locate the right fit for their investment and risk profile, as well as their preferred investing style. After screening for a handful of solid possibilities, investors should find as much information as possible before pulling the trigger.

Objective statistical data form the backbone of any rigorous screening procedure. These can include a company's financial statements, price and performance history of the stock, industry and market research reports, or other objective information. Investors in this stage likely will find publicly available filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission and transcripts or recordings of any public earnings calls useful.

Criteria might include a stock's market capitalization size and growth trends, whether companies tend to reinvest profits, issue dividends or undertake stock buyback programs, and so on. Financial ratios that provide apples-to-apples comparisons between companies with regard to their liquidity, profitability, and debt levels can also be extremely useful when narrowing down choices.

Investors can narrow the universe of stocks they need to analyze by choosing specific market segments that they can learn about and understand deeply, and then deciding upon the qualities that matter most to them when deciding on an investment.

Alternatives to Stocks

Those unwilling to do the legwork required for a thorough analysis of potential stocks for a portfolio might find it easier to invest through mutual funds or exchange-traded funds, for which professional fund managers do the heavy lifting to locate stocks appropriate to their stated investment strategy. Other investors avoid even this degree of risk by investing in funds tied to passive investment strategies, such as index funds, which generally carry lower expenses because they do not require active management.