How to Choose Winning Stocks

What Stocks to Invest in

Finding the right stocks to invest in is no easy feat. While some may say that blue chips are your best bet, you can never be too sure. Even the strongest companies are still vulnerable to conditions that are beyond their control such as widespread corrections, economic recessions, or unexpected events, also known as black swan events. 

Nevertheless, there are precautions that you can take to protect your capital. We will discuss those in this article along with the following topics: 

  • Metrics to consider when selecting stocks.
  • Importance of fundamental analysis when buying a stock.
  • Importance of technical analysis when buying a stock.
  • Steps to consider before investing.

Continue reading to learn more about what stocks to invest in. 

Metrics to Consider When Selecting Stocks

Metrics are criteria that can you help narrow down the list of stocks that are likely to be winners. If applied correctly and consistently, you’ll minimize your risks and boost your return on investment. You will not only protect your capital but you will also give yourself a very good chance of growing it. 

Now, there are many metrics that you can use to put together a list of the best stocks to buy. Many investors prefer to look at fundamental factors such as annual income statements to understand the financial health of a company. On the other hand, there are those who look at technical factors such as the current trend to discover the best stocks to buy today.

For the sake of both types of investor, we’ll look at both fundamental and technical factors. 

Fundamental Metrics 

Fundamental factors are concerned with the stock’s intrinsic value or worth. Fundamental analysts often look at these factors:

Price-to-Earnings Ratio (PE Ratio)

PE ratio is one of the most popular valuation metrics investors look at to determine the relative value of a stock. The metric indicates whether a stock or an equity is overvalued or undervalued. It determines the market value of an equity in relation to the company’s earnings. 

To calculate the PE ratio, all you need to do is divide the market price of a stock (or its market cap) by its earnings per share (or total earnings). The earnings per share in the denominator can be the one posted in the most recent earnings report for calculating the current PE ratio. Whereas, if you use the expected earning per share in the next earnings report that’s estimated by analysts you will calculate the forward-looking PE ratio. 

As a general rule of thumb, stocks that have PE ratios lower than 15 are considered undervalued or value stocks. On the other hand, equities that have PE ratios that are higher than 20 are considered overvalued or growth stocks. 

Another similar valuation metric is the price-to-sales ratio. Price-to-sales is especially useful in determining the relative valuation of a stock in comparison to others in the same industry when a company has negative earnings. That’s because the PE ratio is inconclusive when earnings are negative. In this calculation, instead of dividing market cap by total earnings, it’s divided by total sales or revenue.

Debt-to-equity Ratio

Debt can spur a company’s growth as it provides much-needed capital to boost expansion efforts. However, too much debt can also be the source of a company’s downfall. Therefore, be sure to look at this metric before you consider buying stocks of any company. This will help you get a glimpse of the overall health of the business.

The debt-to-equity ratio can be calculated using the balance sheet. It’s simply debt divided by equity. A high number relative to other companies in the same industry can be considered a red flag. It often signifies the company’s reliance on debt to finance operations. 

Sales Growth Rate 

The sales growth rate over a period of three to five years gives you a very good idea whether there’s a growing demand for the company’s product or service. You should be wary if the company’s growth rate is dwindling, especially when the economy is booming. This can be an indicator that helps make the case that the firm is stagnant and may go out of business if it doesn’t adapt properly. It could also mean that it’s a well-established business which captured most of its market share in its industry. These are often blue-chip companies.

On the other hand, you may want to consider stocks of firms that have a booming growth rate. They are often small caps that either offer a new product or introduce a technological innovation to an unserved market. For instance, pot stocks have soared in the last few years. Many companies related to the cannabis industry have skyrocketing sales growth rates.

Very often, high sales growth rates translate into high PE ratios. This is because investors anticipate higher prices in the future due to high sales growth. 

Other Metrics

There are many more fundamental investment metrics investors should look at before buying a stock. These include return on equity (ROE), free cash flow (FCF), payout ratio, dividend yield, PEG ratio, etc. All of these fundamental metrics should not be looked at on a stand-alone basis. You need to review the overall health of a company by analyzing many metrics and their financial statements before determining whether it has solid fundamentals. 

Technical Metrics

Technical factors are concerned with the stock’s current sentiment. The stock is considered bullish when the price is going up and the sentiment is positive. On the other hand, the stock is bearish when the price is going down and investor sentiment is negative. Here are important metrics to consider when looking at a stock from the perspective of a technical analyst. 

Overall Trend 

There are three trends in technical analysis: 

  • Uptrend – the stock is bullish and investors keep buying it because they expect the price to continue increasing. 
  • Downtrend – the stock is bearish and investors want to sell because they fear that the price will continue to fall. 
  • Sideways – the stock is neither in an uptrend or downtrend. It is trading within a clearly defined price range.

Example of a stock in an uptrend:

Netflix (NFLX) is in a clear uptrend on the monthly chart as long as this trendline is respected
Source: TradingView

Before you buy a stock, you must first determine its current trend. Very often the trend dictates the price of an equity regardless of its intrinsic value. This is also true for the stock market index. Experts use the index as a weathervane to determine the market’s overall trend. 

Therefore, if you’re a beginner, buy stocks that are in an uptrend. If you have some experience, perhaps you can also bet on equities that are trading sideways.

Volume

By definition, volume is the number of shares that have been bought and sold in a given time period. You often see volume at the bottom of a chart. It can be calculated using multiple timeframes including daily, weekly, and monthly volume. 

You want to buy stocks that have heavy volume because this determines their liquidity. This means that a lot of people are buying and selling that particular stock. The higher the volume, the better. A high volume stock suggests that people are interested in the equity. It would be very easy for you to find a willing buyer when you want to sell your holdings if you have invested in high volume stocks. 

More importantly, volume indicates demand. If volume is skyrocketing, it would be safe to assume that price will eventually follow. 

Volatility 

Volatility is a risk measure. It is often referred to as standard deviation or how much, in percentage terms, a stock’s price swings, whether up or down, within a given time period. For instance, a stock that moves less than 1 percent a day is considered a non-volatile stock. On the other hand, there are securities such as penny stocks that can move by 10 to 20 percent in either direction on a single day. They are considered to be very volatile. 

It is recommended that new investors stay away from highly volatile stocks. The emotions brought about by big swings can be overwhelming. Stick to stocks that move between one to five percent per day. These securities are more stable and they will likely not trigger your emotions.

Procter & Gamble (PG) is an example of a non-volatile stock compared to the S&P 500 Index
Source: TradingView

Importance of Fundamental Analysis When Buying a Stock

To help you find the best stocks to invest in, you should understand the relevance of fundamental analysis. When you make an equity investment based on fundamentals, you are doing so because you believe that the security or the common stock is trading below its fair value. 

The metrics that we mentioned above, such as the PE ratio will help you determine whether a stock is trading below or above its intrinsic value. It is also important to consider whether the stock pays out a dividend. Dividend stocks are popular among value investors because they are able to grow their investments by receiving a certain percentage of the company’s profits. 

There are two common ways of investing based on fundamental factors. One is value investing and the other is growth investing. Value investing focuses on picking value stocks that have low PE ratios, as well as stable earnings and dividend payouts. Whereas, growth investing focuses on picking growth stocks that have high PE ratios and are growing their revenues and income significantly every year. Growth companies do not usually pay out a dividend.

Importance of Technical Analysis When Buying a Stock

Technical analysis is a trading discipline that enables you to make reliable market forecasts based on historical price action. Technical analysts rely on many tools and techniques in stock trading such as stock charts, support, resistance, candlesticks, patterns, and trends.

This methodology is important in stock market trading because if you can predict the movement of the market, you’ll be able to grow your capital at will. Of course, technical analysts are not always accurate. Nevertheless, the goal is to minimize losses by cutting losing stocks quickly and maximizing gains by letting winners run. 

DIS triangle generates over 30 percent gains after the breakout and retest
Source: TradingView

 

If you want to learn how to trade stocks, consider learning more about technical analysis. 

Steps to Consider Before Investing

Many investors have a checklist that they go through before taking on a trade. We’ll give a general step-by-step guide to start with. Feel free to change them according to your investment style. 

  1. Check the health of the overall economy – unless you’re an expert bottom-picker, it’s never a good idea to buy stocks while the economy is in a recession. 
  2. Check the pulse of the market – is the index in a bull market (uptrend) or a bear market (downtrend)? If you’re a new investor, buy stocks when the overall market is bullish. 
  3. Identify your investment horizon – will you be trading on a daily basis or are you a long-term investor? Define your timeline before buying equities.
  4. Define your risk appetite – what losses can you handle before selling your investments? This is often defined in percentage terms. 
  5. Identify the type of stocks you’re ready to invest in – are you investing in blue chips only or are you ready to play with small caps? 

Consider going through these steps once you have a short-list of stocks that you want to invest in. These parameters are designed to make your investing experience easier. 

Bottom Line

We’ve covered the basics to help you learn to trade stocks. We provided metrics that can help you identify winners. We also provided a step-by-step guide on what to consider before buying equities. We will end with a quote from a legendary investor Warren Buffett, “the most important quality for an investor is temperament, not intellect.”

 

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