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How to Invest in Stocks and come out ahead

Stock picking is a very complicated process and investors have different approaches. However, it is wise to follow general steps to minimize the risk of the investments. This article will outline these basic steps for picking high performance stocks.

Step 1. Decide on the time frame and the general strategy of the investment. This step is very important because it will dictate the type of stocks you buy.

Suppose you decide to be a long term investor, you would want to find stocks that have sustainable competitive advantages along with stable growth. The key for finding these stocks is by looking at the historical performance of each stock over the past decades and do a simple business S.W.O.T. (Strength-weakness-opportunity-threat) analysis on the company.

If you decide to be a short term investor, you would like to adhere to one of the following strategies:

a. Momentum Trading. This strategy is to look for stocks that increase in both price and volume over the recent past. Most technical analyses support this trading strategy. My advice on this strategy is to look for stocks that have demonstrated stable and smooth rises in their prices. The idea is that when the stocks are not volatile, you can simply ride the up-trend until the trend breaks.

b. Contrarian Strategy. This strategy is to look for over-reactions in the stock market. Researches show that stock market is not always efficient, which means prices do not always accurately represent the values of the stocks. When a company announces a bad news, people panic and price often drops below the stock's fair value. To decide whether a stock over-reacted to a news, you should look at the possibility of recovery from the impact of the bad news. For example, if the stock drops 20% after the company loses a legal case that has no permanent damage to the business's brand and product, you can be confident that the market over-reacted. My advice on this strategy is to find a list of stocks that have recent drops in prices, analyze the potential for a reversal (through candlestick analysis). If the stocks demonstrate candlestick reversal patterns, I will go through the recent news to analyze the causes of the recent price drops to determine the existence of over-sold opportunities.

Step 2. Conduct researches that give you a selection of stocks that is consistent to your investment time frame and strategy. There are numerous stock screeners on the web that can help you find stocks according to your needs.

Step 3. Once you have a list of stocks to buy, you would need to diversify them in a way that gives the greatest reward/risk ratio. One way to do this is conduct a Markowitz analysis for your portfolio. The analysis will give you the proportions of money you should allocate to each stock. This step is crucial because diversification is one of the free-lunches in the investment world.

These three steps should get you started in your quest to consistently make money in the stock market. They will deepen your knowledge about the financial markets, and would provide a sense of confidence that helps you to make better trading decisions.

Penny Stock Tips

Investing in penny stocks provides traders with the opportunity to dramatically increase their profits, however, it also provides an equal opportunity to lose your trading capital quickly. These 5 tips will help you lower the risk of one of the riskiest investment vehicles.

1. Penny Stocks are a penny for a reason.

While we all dream about investing in the next Microsoft or the next Home Depot, the truth is, the odds of you finding that once in a decade success story are slim. These companies are either starting out and purchased a shell company because it was cheaper than an IPO, or they simply do not have a business plan compelling enough to justify investment banker's money for an IPO. This doesn't make them a bad investment, but it should make you be realistic about the kind of company that you are investing in.

2. Trading Volumes

Look for a consistent high volume of shares being traded. Looking at the average volume can be misleading. If ABC trades 1 million shares today, and doesn't trade for the rest of the week, the daily average will appear to be 200 000 shares. In order to get in and out at an acceptable rate of return, you need consistent volume. Also look at the number of trades per day. Is it 1 insider selling or buying? Liquidity should be the first thing to look at. If there is no volume, you will end up holding "dead money", where the only way of selling shares is to dump at the bid, which will put more selling pressure, resulting in an even lower sell price.

3. Does the company know how to make a profit?

While its not unusual to see a start up company run at a loss, its important to look at why they are losing money. Is it manageable? Will they have to seek further financing (resulting in dilution of your shares) or will they have to seek a joint partnership that favors the other company?

If your company knows how to make a profit, the company can use that money to grow their business, which increases shareholder value. You have to do some research to find these companies, but when you do, you lower the risk of a loss of your capital, and increase the odds of a much higher return.

4. Have an entry and exit plan - and stick to it.

Penny stocks are volitile. They will quickly move up, and move down just as quickly. Remember, if you buy a stock at $0.10 and sell it at $0.12, that represents a 20% return on your investment. A 2 cent decline leaves you with a 20% loss. Many stocks trade in this range on a daily basis. If your investment capital is $10 000, a 20% loss is a $2000 loss. Do this 5 times and you're out of money. Keep your stops close. If you get stopped out, move on to the next opportunity. The market is telling you something, and whether you want to admit it or not, its usually best to listen.

If your plan was to sell at $0.12 and it jumps to $0.13, either take the 30% gain, or better still, place your stop at $0.12. Lock in your profits while not capping the upside potential.

5. How did you find out about the stock?

Most people find out about penny stocks through a mailing list. There are many excellent penny stock newsletters, however, there are just as many who are pumping and dumping. They, along with insiders, will load up on shares, then begin to pump the company to unsuspecting newsletter subscribers. These subscribers buy while insiders are selling. Guess who wins here.

How to spot the good companies from the bad? Simply subscribe, and track the investments. Was there a legitimate opportunity to make money? Do they have a track record of providing subscribers with great opportunities? You'll start to notice quickly if you have subscribed to a good newsletter or not.

One other tip I would offer to you is not to invest more than 20% of your overall portfolio in penny stocks. You are investing to make money and preserve capital to fight another battle. If you put too much of your capital at risk, you increase the odds of losing your capital. If that 20% grows, you'll have more than enough money to make a healthy rate of return. Penny stocks are risky to begin with, why put your money more at risk?