A Penny for Your Stocks


According to Investopedia Inc. the penny stock market has seen phenomenal growth this past decade. From '94 to '03, the Over-the-Counter Bulletin Board trading volume increased an astounding 8900%, equaling a total of 63% of the NASDAQ and 78& of the NYSE share volumes. Many an investor has succumbed to their siren song.

It isn't hard to see why. Penny stocks are usually traded in lots of 1,000 and, as the name suggests, are bought (and sold) at incredibly low prices. There is no official price cut-off, and differences of opinion range from shares trading under $1.00 all the way up to $5.00. Others distinguish according to the market that they are traded on (the OTCBB, OTC or "Pink Sheets" for example). Yet others designate stocks as penny stocks based upon their market capitalization, or the value of each stock multiplied by the total number of outstanding shares. Regardless of the specifics, a general rule applies to all penny stocks - they are a very high risk investment. Inversely, there's also the potential for staggering rewards.

But for every pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, there are thousands of cliffs and pitfalls along the way. The risks and dangers of penny stocks are many. In the stock exchange, there is a "best price" priority given to orders of a higher price than yours if you're buying or a lower price if you're selling. Combining this priority with what is very often low volume trading means there will be times when you find that your orders cannot be filled. In addition, there will be instances where you will have to settle for partial order fulfillment. And these are just dangers faced when your stock is performing well.

Penny stocks come from companies that are often less than credible, and unlike some of their more expensive cousins, can find themselves swayed by the power of rumors. Press releases, news stories, widespread whispers and even online forums and chat-rooms can be responsible for dramatically influencing their performance. This volatility creates two considerable challenges: 1) a high potential for schemes and scam artists; and 2) the inability to use traditional stock charting methods with any real effectiveness. It goes without saying that this isn't a market for the faint of heart.


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