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What Is a Stock Float? Definition, Example, and Why Is it Important?

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Written by Timothy Sykes
Updated 9/16/2023 11 min read

The float of a stock refers to the number of shares that are available for public trading. These are shares typically held by regular investors, not company insiders or employees. The float is a fundamental aspect of stock trading — but it influences technical aspects such as liquidity, volatility, and share price movements.

The size of a stock’s float can have a significant effect on its behavior in the market. For instance, stocks with a smaller float can exhibit higher volatility due to the limited supply of shares. This can lead to larger price swings, which might be attractive to some traders who thrive on high-risk, high-reward scenarios. Conversely, stocks with a larger float often display more stability in their price movements, as the larger supply of shares can absorb trading activity more smoothly.

Understanding the float of a stock is an essential part of investment research. It provides insights into the supply and demand dynamics of a stock, which can help investors anticipate potential price movements. Whether you’re considering trading stocks, stock options, crypto, or even commodity funds, being aware of concepts like stock float can enhance your market knowledge and help you make more informed investment decisions.

This article reviews how float affects shareholders and the value of their securities, speculation, and the compensation that traders target from different float rates. Let’s get to the content!

What Is Float in Stocks?

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In the world of Wall Street and stock trading, the term “float” refers to the number of shares of a particular company that are available to the public for trading. These shares are typically held by regular investors, not company insiders or employees.

The concept of float is a fundamental aspect of stock trading. It’s a term that every investor should be familiar with, as it can significantly impact a stock’s liquidity and volatility. The float of a stock can influence its price movements, trading volume, and even the company’s market capitalization.

A lower float often means higher volatility, which can lead to larger price swings. Conversely, stocks with a higher float tend to be more stable but may move slower. Understanding the concept of stock float can provide valuable insights into market dynamics and help you make more informed trading decisions.

Learn more about the intricacies of stock float and how it can influence your trading strategy here!

The Role of Float in Stock Investing

The float plays a significant role in stock investing. It’s a key factor in the supply and demand dynamics of a stock. For example, a low float stock, where there are fewer shares available for trading, can see more dramatic price swings. This is due to higher demand or lack of supply.

On the other hand, a high float stock, with many shares available, might be more stable in price due to a larger supply. However, it’s important to note that a high float doesn’t necessarily mean low volatility. Other factors, such as news events or changes in market sentiment, can also cause price swings.

Understanding the float of a stock can help investors make more informed trading decisions. It can provide insights into a stock’s potential volatility and liquidity, which are important considerations when developing a trading strategy.

Types of Float in Stocks

When it comes to float in stocks, there are several types to consider. Each type represents a different portion of a company’s total shares and can provide different insights into a company’s financial structure and market position.

It’s not just about knowing the definitions; it’s about understanding how these concepts interact and influence each other in the live market. Enhance your trading vocabulary and deepen your understanding of the market with this comprehensive guide on trading terms you need to know.

Outstanding Shares

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Outstanding shares refer to all shares of a company, including those held by insiders like employees and management, as well as institutional investors. This is the total number of shares that exist for a company. The number of outstanding shares can provide insights into a company’s size, financial structure, and market position.

Restricted Shares

Restricted shares are shares that are held by insiders and cannot be traded in the public market until certain conditions are met. These conditions often involve a specific time period after an IPO (Initial Public Offering) or the achievement of certain company milestones. The number of restricted shares can provide insights into a company’s insider ownership and potential future changes in the float.

Authorized Shares

Authorized shares are the maximum number of shares that a company can issue. Not all authorized shares are issued as outstanding shares, and not all outstanding shares are available as float in the market. The number of authorized shares can provide insights into a company’s potential for future growth and stock dilution.

Float Percentage

The float percentage is the portion of outstanding shares that are available for public trading. It’s calculated by dividing the float by the total number of outstanding shares. The float percentage can provide insights into a stock’s potential liquidity and volatility.

Benefits and Risks of Different Floats in Stocks

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Different types of floats come with their own sets of benefits and risks.

Benefits of Larger Floats in Stocks

Larger floats offer more liquidity, which means investors can buy or sell shares without causing a significant impact on the price. This makes high-float stocks more suitable for institutional investors who trade in large volumes.

Risks of Low-Float Stocks

Low-float stocks, on the other hand, can be highly volatile. With fewer shares available for trading, buy or sell orders can have a significant impact on the stock price. This can lead to large price swings, which can be risky for investors.

However, low float can be great for traders. You just have to understand how to trade these stocks…

How to Calculate and Interpret Float in Stocks

Understanding how to calculate and interpret the float of a stock can be a valuable tool for any investor or trader.

Calculating Outstanding Stock Numbers

The number of outstanding shares is typically listed in a company’s quarterly or annual report. This number can change over time due to actions such as stock splits, share buybacks, or additional share issuance.

Calculating the Float Percentage for a Stock

The float percentage is calculated by dividing the float (the number of shares available for trading) by the total number of outstanding shares and multiplying by 100.

Interpreting the Results of the Calculation

A high float percentage indicates that a large proportion of a company’s shares are available for trading, which can suggest greater liquidity and less price volatility. A low float percentage, on the other hand, can indicate higher volatility and potential price manipulation.

Understanding Float Impact

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The size of a company’s float can have a significant impact on its stock’s performance. This is especially important in day trading.

Day trading is a strategy where financial instruments are bought and sold within the same trading day. This approach aims to capitalize on short-term price movements in the market. It requires a thorough understanding of market trends, a disciplined approach, and the ability to make quick decisions.

Day trading can be a profitable strategy when executed correctly, but it also carries significant risk due to the fast-paced nature of the market. To learn more about this trading style and whether it’s suitable for you, check out this detailed day trade definition.

Low Float Stocks

Low float stocks often experience higher price volatility. With fewer shares available for trading, a single large buy or sell order can significantly move the stock price. This can create opportunities for large, quick profits, but it also comes with increased risk.

High Float Stocks

High float stocks, on the other hand, tend to be more stable. With more shares available for trading, it’s harder for a single trade to significantly move the price. These stocks are often favored by institutional investors who need to buy or sell large volumes of shares.

Over-the-Counter Stocks

Over-the-counter (OTC) stocks often have a low float. These are stocks that aren’t listed on a major exchange like the NASDAQ or Dow Jones. They’re often smaller, less-established companies, and their low float can lead to high price volatility.

Comparison Between High and Low Floats

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When comparing high and low float stocks, it’s important to consider your investment goals and risk tolerance. High float stocks can be a good choice for conservative investors who prefer stable, predictable stocks. Low float stocks can offer higher potential returns, but they also come with higher risk.

Stock Price Manipulation Through Float

A low float can make a stock more susceptible to price manipulation. For example, a trader with a large amount of capital could buy up a significant portion of the available shares, driving up the price. This is known as a “pump and dump” scheme and is illegal.

How to Find Float Data?

You can find data on a company’s float in its quarterly or annual reports. Many financial news and information websites also provide this information. It’s important to use a reliable source to ensure the data is accurate.

Key Takeaways

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Understanding the concept of float is crucial for any investor or trader. It can significantly impact a stock’s price volatility and liquidity, affecting your trading strategy and potential returns.

Trading isn’t rocket science. It’s a skill you build and work on like any other. Trading has changed my life, and I think this way of life should be open to more people…

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Do you trade low-float stocks? Let me know in the comments — I love hearing from my readers!

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Timothy Sykes

Tim Sykes is a penny stock trader and teacher who became a self-made millionaire by the age of 22 by trading $12,415 of bar mitzvah money. After becoming disenchanted with the hedge fund world, he established the Tim Sykes Trading Challenge to teach aspiring traders how to follow his trading strategies. He’s been featured in a variety of media outlets including CNN, Larry King, Steve Harvey, Forbes, Men’s Journal, and more. He’s also an active philanthropist and environmental activist, a co-founder of Karmagawa, and has donated millions of dollars to charity. Read More

* Results are not typical and will vary from person to person. Making money trading stocks takes time, dedication, and hard work. There are inherent risks involved with investing in the stock market, including the loss of your investment. Past performance in the market is not indicative of future results. Any investment is at your own risk. See Terms of Service here

The available research on day trading suggests that most active traders lose money. Fees and overtrading are major contributors to these losses.

A 2000 study called “Trading is Hazardous to Your Wealth: The Common Stock Investment Performance of Individual Investors” evaluated 66,465 U.S. households that held stocks from 1991 to 1996. The households that traded most averaged an 11.4% annual return during a period where the overall market gained 17.9%. These lower returns were attributed to overconfidence.

A 2014 paper (revised 2019) titled “Learning Fast or Slow?” analyzed the complete transaction history of the Taiwan Stock Exchange between 1992 and 2006. It looked at the ongoing performance of day traders in this sample, and found that 97% of day traders can expect to lose money from trading, and more than 90% of all day trading volume can be traced to investors who predictably lose money. Additionally, it tied the behavior of gamblers and drivers who get more speeding tickets to overtrading, and cited studies showing that legalized gambling has an inverse effect on trading volume.

A 2019 research study (revised 2020) called “Day Trading for a Living?” observed 19,646 Brazilian futures contract traders who started day trading from 2013 to 2015, and recorded two years of their trading activity. The study authors found that 97% of traders with more than 300 days actively trading lost money, and only 1.1% earned more than the Brazilian minimum wage ($16 USD per day). They hypothesized that the greater returns shown in previous studies did not differentiate between frequent day traders and those who traded rarely, and that more frequent trading activity decreases the chance of profitability.

These studies show the wide variance of the available data on day trading profitability. One thing that seems clear from the research is that most day traders lose money .

Millionaire Media 66 W Flagler St. Ste. 900 Miami, FL 33130 United States (888) 878-3621 This is for information purposes only as Millionaire Media LLC nor Timothy Sykes is registered as a securities broker-dealer or an investment adviser. No information herein is intended as securities brokerage, investment, tax, accounting or legal advice, as an offer or solicitation of an offer to sell or buy, or as an endorsement, recommendation or sponsorship of any company, security or fund. Millionaire Media LLC and Timothy Sykes cannot and does not assess, verify or guarantee the adequacy, accuracy or completeness of any information, the suitability or profitability of any particular investment, or the potential value of any investment or informational source. The reader bears responsibility for his/her own investment research and decisions, should seek the advice of a qualified securities professional before making any investment, and investigate and fully understand any and all risks before investing. Millionaire Media LLC and Timothy Sykes in no way warrants the solvency, financial condition, or investment advisability of any of the securities mentioned in communications or websites. In addition, Millionaire Media LLC and Timothy Sykes accepts no liability whatsoever for any direct or consequential loss arising from any use of this information. This information is not intended to be used as the sole basis of any investment decision, nor should it be construed as advice designed to meet the investment needs of any particular investor. Past performance is not necessarily indicative of future returns.

Citations for Disclaimer

Barber, Brad M. and Odean, Terrance, Trading is Hazardous to Your Wealth: The Common Stock Investment Performance of Individual Investors. Available at SSRN: “Day Trading for a Living?”

Barber, Brad M. and Lee, Yi-Tsung and Liu, Yu-Jane and Odean, Terrance and Zhang, Ke, Learning Fast or Slow? (May 28, 2019). Forthcoming: Review of Asset Pricing Studies, Available at SSRN: “https://ssrn.com/abstract=2535636”

Chague, Fernando and De-Losso, Rodrigo and Giovannetti, Bruno, Day Trading for a Living? (June 11, 2020). Available at SSRN: “https://ssrn.com/abstract=3423101”