Penny Stock Returns

Why do people invest in penny stocks if they are so risky? The answer lies in a few facts as well as a few misconceptions about penny stocks. First let us look at the positive side of how penny stocks can be more profitable.

It is a well-known fact in finance that risk and return have a positive correlation. This means that an investment that carries greater risk will also give higher returns. The reason for this is very easy to understand and is almost intuitive. Suppose you had $10,000 to invest and two options A and B. Option A is a secure government bond that gives you 5% return, while option B is a higher risk investment in a company that will pay you only if it makes profits. Assume that this company has a history of making 5% Profits over several years and is likely to continue on the same lines.

That is, you can expect to get a return of 5% in future years, but that is subject to the company making the same level of profits. Where would you invest your money? If the returns are likely to be the same and if you are a sane person, you would obviously invest in the risk free option. Now suppose, option B were to pay you not 5% but 15% consistently, you might be tempted to put your money in it. In other words, a higher return can make you to invest in a riskier venture.

Since penny stocks are higher risk alternatives compared to regular stocks, the only way they can attract investment is by holding out a promise of higher return. How would a penny stock offer a higher return? This will be done not directly by the stock or the company, but by market forces. The market price of a stock is fixed on the basis of a few factors such as its intrinsic value and the return yielded by it. The market price of a stock divided by the return it gives is known as the price-earnings ratio.

For example, if $10 stocks were to be traded in the market at $20, and the company earns a net income per share of $1, the price-earnings ratio is 20. The price-earnings ratio will be higher for solid stocks that are known to be backed up by good management, have a history of consistent and good performance, and are perceived to be stable. The price-earnings ratio for stocks that are riskier, unknown and do not enjoy a positive perception will be much lower. This means that as against the example of price-earnings ratio of 20 that we assumed for a stable and well-known stock, a penny stock may have a much lower price-earnings ratio, say 3 or 4. Actual figures will depend on a number of other factors also.

Because of this, a penny stock will be priced lower for the same level of net income, and will therefore yield a higher return on the investment.

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How you can make (or lose) money on penny stocks

As we have seen earlier, penny stocks carry higher risks and also can give greater returns. This actually means that you can either lose a lot of money by investing in penny stocks (because of the higher risk factor) or make a lot of money (because of the higher potential returns). Which of these happens to you will depend a lot (but not only) on how you go about assessing the investment. Before we go further, however, you should be aware that no matter how much care you may take there is a certain amount of risk associated with penny stocks, which is much higher than in the case of large cap, stock exchange registered stocks.

In order to assess whether you can make money out of a penny stock, you should understand how one makes money in the stock market. One of the returns that one gets from a stock investment is in the form of dividends. That however, is usually a very small portion of the returns that one gets from stock investment. The major returns come from appreciation in the price of the stocks. The prices of stocks are assessed using different yardsticks or parameters. The first of these is the return on investment. If the return on a stock is 10% and the price earnings ratio is 10, for example, the stock would be priced at ten time the earnings or 100% of issue price. In other words this stock would be traded at its face value. From this we can see that the price would depend on two things, the absolute return and the price-earnings ratio.

The second important factor that affects the price is the book value of the stock, which is basically computed as a figure that represents the assets available in the company against each stock. For example, if a company has net assets of $100,000 and has issued 10,000 shares, the value of each share under this method would be $10.

The price of a share is also valued on the basis of a few other criteria. However, the most important factor from the market point of view is the returns that the stock generates. The value under this method would depend on the earnings and the price-earnings ratio. The latter is a matter of perception that will depend on the risks associated with the stock. This perception will undergo changes depending on the history of performance of the organization, the available information about the company and its prospects, and the market buzz about impending major events in the company (for example a takeover by a major organization).

Of these, the most important from the long-term point of view is the consistency and quantum of earnings from the long term and the direction of the price-earnings ratio in the short term. As an investor what you need to assess and be aware of are

– Is the company stable enough to sustain its earnings and growth? Who are the promoters? How long has it been in business? Answers to these and other such questions

– How is the market perception of the company? How is it likely to change?

– How are the “fundamentals”? Does the company have a good asset base? Does it enjoy a good business?

Finally, the old adage “don’t put all your eggs in one basket” is true to a greater extent in the case of penny stocks. So invest a little at a time and don’t put all your money on one or a few such stocks.

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