In the world we live in today there is no shortage of access to investment information. This in itself however, can be an enormous problem. Asking questions about how to invest, where to invest, and what to look for, can bring you many answers from lots of different sources. The trouble is diving through all the clutter to find relevant information to suit your needs.
So when looking to invest in the stock market, where should you start?
First things first, invest in what you know. If you are trying to evaluate a company, make sure you know how it works. The great Warren Buffett has often been criticized for not investing in technology during the dot-com boom. His answer was simple. If you don’t know the business model, what the company does on a day to day basis, or how it generates revenue now, and in the future, then stay away from it. It is because of this that he has earned billions of dollars year after year for himself and his investors.
Once you know the types of companies to look for, you’ll need ideas. Message boards, newsletters, financial news shows, and stock screeners are all good places to find ideas. Stock screeners are especially useful, because in addition to finding ideas, you can narrow the search down as you go to fit your qualifications. I’ve personally had good luck using the screener at http://finance.yahoo.com.
So you’ve found some companies worth looking into, what next?
1. Insider trading — This is anyone who is considered to have an inside knowledge of the company, and also has money invested in company stock. This could be someone who owns 10% or more of the company, a director, CEO, CFO, etc. Watching when the insiders buy and sell stock, and at the prices they do it, can be very useful in predicting a stocks future. You don’t want to buy a large stake in Company X when all the people running it are getting out. Therefore it’s always a good idea to watch what the «smart money» is doing.
2. P/E ratio — The price to earnings ratio can also be a useful tool in evaluating a company. The P/E ratio will tell you if the company is relatively undervalued, or overvalued. A company that is undervalued should have a P/E ratio that is lower than other stocks in their sector. This is a great value to plug into a stock screener to find profitable companies.
Note: P/E can be manipulated (think Enron). Also P/E ratios vary wildly depending on the sector you are looking in. Technology stocks could have an average P/E ratio of 60, while oil companies could have an average P/E ratio of 10. Whenever I evaluate a stock, I don’t look at the P/E against all other companies, but I look at it against their competitors in the same sector.
3. Technical analysis and charts — This is another tool that can help you see where a company has been, where the company stands now, and where it’s headed in the future. It shows the company in a graphical form where you can see the stocks activity and volume over a period of time. You can find many tutorials on the internet about this, and you can even get a free DVD that shows you the basics from http://www.technitrader.com.
4. Management team — Some people just look at earnings, charts, and other technical ways of evaluating a company. This isn’t always a bad thing but to really know about a company, you should know the management. You should know what other companies they have been involved with in the past, and how they did when they were there. You should also know where they plan to take the company you’re evaluating, and in what length of time they have allocated to get there. It’s a bit like evaluating a sports team. You wouldn’t pick a championship team without looking at the coaching staff.
These are a few of the ways to help find companies to invest in. Like with anything though, due your homework, write out your goals, and when in doubt, ask for advice from someone who has already accomplished what you are trying to do. Knowledge is the key to being successful at just about anything.