Stock Trading Strategies - Which One Is Right For you?

By: Reginald T. Hobbss

There are two major ways to trade in the stock markets: picking stocks at random or doing research to determine which stocks to buy and if and when to sell them. Obviously, thinking things through will give you far better results. However, there are hundreds of different strategies to pick which stocks you want! A few of them are the tried and true standards that investors have had success with - those are the ones new investors should start with and see how they perform. After they understand those basic strategies, they can branch out into more complicated strategies.

Protecting your investment by reducing the risk that comes with holding a certain stock is known as hedging. A put option makes it possible to sell the stock for a set price during a predetermined period of time. This will offset some risk that comes if the stock decreases in price. The put option value is increased if the price of the stock happens to fall.

The most costly hedging strategy is that of buying put options against individual stocks. Buying a put option on the stock market itself may be a better idea if your portfolio is broad. That way, you will be protected against general declines in the market. Selling financial futures, such as the S&P 500 futures, is another trick to hedging against market declines.

This approach to buying stocks grew in popularity during the 1990s. The basic idea behind this strategy is to buy those Dow stocks that comprise the best value stocks at the moment, by choosing the 10 stocks that have the best, i.e. lowest, P/E ratio and the highest dividend yields. Because the Dow favors well-established companies that perform well year to year, these 10 are considered the most likely to grow in the next year. A variation on this strategy is called the "Pigs of the Dow," in which you purchase the 5 stocks that had the greatest drop in price over the past year. Again, these are thought to be the stocks most ripe for growth.

When you buy stocks on margin, you are borrowing money to pay for your investment. If the margin is 100%, you can buy twice as many shares as you would have if you did not buy on margin. Usually, this loan comes from your broker. The upside to buying on margin is that your money goes further. The downside is that if the stock goes down, you will still have to pay back the loan. Therefore, you should limit your margin buying and place stop-loss orders to put a floor on your losses if the market should go against you.

An investor must choose a fixed dollar amount to invest regularly to successfully complete dollar cost averaging. For example, the buyer may invest in mutual fund shares every month. If that fund plummets in price through the market, that investor will be given more shares for his monetary expenditure. So, as the prices rises, the fixed amount price will allow the purchase of fewer shares.

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