How to select Stocks for Investing

How to pick the best stocks to invest – A definitive guide

1. Determine your financial goals Investing is not a one-size-fits-all activity. Younger investors are likely concerned with increasing their portfolio over a long period. Older investors are interested in capital preservation as they approach retirement age and plan to live off their holdings. Therefore, financial goals play a significant role when choosing companies to invest in.

2. Identify your risk appetite Investors have a wide range of investment options available to them. However, they have different risk and return profiles, making them distinct. Before investing in any stock, you should analyse and understand your risk appetite. This important how-to-select stock tip will help you pick the best investment option based on your needs and requirements.

3. Buy stocks only if you understand the company Warren Buffett, one of the greatest investors of all time, says, “Never invest in a company you don’t understand.” Investing blindly or based on hype and fear of missing out is one of the most common ways investors lose money.

A good understanding of the stocks can help you make informed decisions about buying, holding or selling them at any time. Therefore, invest in companies you understand only after performing adequate research.

4. Understand financial ratios Generally, a company’s financial disclosures include a profit-and-loss statement, balance sheet, and cash flow statement. Basis these documents, Investors can determine the efficiency of a company’s management, its historical growth, profitability, financial ratios and financial stability. Six fundamental ratios are frequently employed to choose equities for investing portfolios. These include the working capital ratio, the quick ratio, earnings per share (EPS), price-to-earnings (P/E), the debt-to-equity ratio, and the return on equity (ROE). Comparing these ratios across different years and between peers in the same stock market sector or industry help investors make better investment decisions.

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5. Watch out for value traps ‘Value stock’ refers to those with a low price compared to the company’s fundamentals. Most new investors focus on a company’s price-cash flow, price-book, price-earnings, and price-sales ratios. They may also make decisions solely based on how low they appear compared to their peers in the same sector. However, there is always the possibility that the company may look undervalued due to its poor performance.

A value trap is when a company isn’t truly undervalued but experiencing financial distress and a lack of growth prospects in the future. One must consider qualitative factors like a company’s management effectiveness, competitive advantage, and potential catalysts to avoid value traps.

6. Avoid chasing high yields Dividend investors often choose stocks with high dividend yields to invest in, but this method can result in holdings of unprofitable, stagnant companies. Dividend yields are calculated by dividing annual dividends by share prices. Hence, when a stock’s price begins to decline, a plummeting yield can appear high momentarily.

A suitable way to spot yield traps is to check the payout ratio, which is calculated by dividing the dividend payout rate by earnings. If it’s over 100%, the company may not be profitable enough to pay its dividend solely with retained earnings.

7. Determine whether a company has a competitive advantage It’s essential to choose stocks based on sustainable competitive advantages, or moat—as Warren Buffett calls it.

A vast economic moat allows a company to remain dominant in an industry for decades. If all other factors are equal, this translates into higher margins and consistent cash flow, increasing company value over time.

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Various organisations provide quantitative methods for assessing a company’s moat. However, a qualitative approach is often appropriate. The size of an organisation (economies of scale), its intangibles (patents, licenses, brand recognition), and its cost (cost leadership and switching costs) usually provide investors with a good indication of the company’s advantage.

Important Tip: Investing in stocks via intraday trading requires a different approach. Since intraday trading takes place in real-time, the investor must stay alert and follow the market fluctuation throughout the time when the market is open. As a beginner, investors follow particular rules on how to choose stocks in Intraday trading to help pick up successful stocks.