Trading for Beginners: A Guide to Start Investing in the Stock Market

Jun 25, 2023, 3:18PM
19 min, 22 sec READ
Brought to you by

At its core, the stock market is simply a marketplace where companies list shares of their businesses for sale to investors.

Understanding Stocks and the Stock Market

Before diving into the world of trading, it's crucial to have a solid understanding of stocks and the stock market. Stocks, also known as equities, are essentially ownership stakes in these companies. In this piece from, we take a look at the basics of stocks and the stock market.

For example, imagine you started a lemonade stand with five other friends. Each of you invested $10 to get the business up and running. Now, imagine you decide to sell parts of your ownership in the company to others. You might offer to sell $1 shares to people passing by your lemonade stand, giving them a small percentage of ownership in your business in exchange for their investment.

The stock market works similarly but on a much larger scale. Established companies such as Apple or Walmart list shares of their businesses on stock exchanges which allow individuals and institutions to buy or sell shares at fluctuating prices based on supply and demand.

The value or price of these shares can shift significantly depending on various factors such as company performance, economic conditions, political events or overall market sentiment. There are two main types of stocks: common stocks and preferred stocks.

Common stocks represent partial ownership in a company and provide shareholders with voting rights during annual meetings. Majority shareholder decisions may determine significant aspects that affect the company in terms of leadership, finances, and strategic direction.

Preferred stocks operate differently from common stock by having fixed dividend payments, similar to bond yields. They provide shareholders priority over common stockholders when it comes to earnings distribution.

Investing in the stock market requires analysing multiple things beyond individual stocks, including macroeconomic events like natural disasters or pandemics. Trading involves high levels of research beyond analysing company prospectus reports such as macroeconomic variables like news releases, inflation rates etc; technical indicators reports including chart patterns, and price action reports.

Now that we have a fundamental understanding of what stocks and the stock market are, let's take a closer look at how the stock market actually operates.

Stocks and Stock Exchanges

The world's major stock exchanges include the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), NASDAQ, Tokyo Stock Exchange, and Shanghai Stock Exchange, among others. These exchanges introduce buyers and sellers through different kinds of order entry and trade transaction mechanisms.

In general, when an investor decides to purchase shares in a company, they place an order with their broker for a certain amount of shares in that particular stock. These orders can be executed in several ways, such as limit orders or market orders, depending on the trader's trading strategy.

Implementing an active trading strategy involves buying securities with the goal of selling them shortly after at a higher price point. Passive investing aims to hold assets over a longer period hoping they increase in value and avoiding frequent changes in one's portfolio.

Picture a crowded flea market where traders come together to buy and sell goods. The NYSE operates similarly, except software systems connect the buyer-seller interactions by consolidating bids and asking prices that investors provide for certain stocks.

For instance, suppose you want to buy Apple stock. You place an order for 100 shares at a limit price of $150 per share. Meanwhile, someone else wants to sell their shares in Apple, which they own but no longer want for $149 per share. When these two matching orders pass through the exchange system, an automatic trade execution takes priority until there are transactions for all available parties.

Pricing involves supply and demand mechanics where people place competing bids and offers for each share determining equilibrium prices for that specific asset over time without intervention from authorities.

Investors interested in buying or selling bonds can do it via bond markets, while commodity traders get access to futures markets or spot markets.

All these financial markets may have different trading mechanisms, but they share fundamental concepts of supply and demand mechanics in pricing securities. This means every trading decision depends on the investor's knowledge of these concepts to outline more informed strategies for effective investing.

Now that we have a clearer understanding of what stocks are and how stock exchanges operate let's move on to the different types of trading and investment strategies available to investors in today's market.

Supply and Demand Mechanics

Understanding supply and demand is crucial to becoming a successful trader in the stock market. Here's a thorough explanation of how the supply and demand mechanics work.

The stock market runs on basic supply and demand principles. As more investors become interested in a particular stock, its price will rise as a result of an increase in buyer demand. Conversely, when many investors want to sell shares of a company, the price drops since there are more sellers than buyers.

One example of this is when Apple releases its latest iPhone model. There’s always intense hype around these product launches that results in high buying pressure for Apple shares, increasing its price. When previous models are no longer manufactured or distributed by Apple, there’s reduced supply but still high demand for their products – that makes these older iPhone models valuable on the street (analogous to buying Apple shares before launch). But if rumours spread claiming that Apple is oversupplying iPhones resulting in fewer buyers, which causes prices to drop ie, “demand deficiency.” The call here is then up to the investor/trader whether he sees potential/reduction of value in holding/shedding them from his portfolio.

Types of Trading and Investment Strategies

There are two main types of approaches when it comes to investing: active trading and passive investing. Each method has its pros and cons for traders looking to build their portfolios.

Active trading refers to buying and selling securities frequently, usually with the intention of earning a higher rate of return than a buy-and-hold investor. Active traders typically perform both fundamental and technical analysis on stocks before making trades, with an emphasis on identifying short-term price movements. This type of trader can use a variety of strategies, such as day trading, swing trading, or scalping, to name just a few.

Passive investing involves purchasing securities with the intention of holding them for an extended period with little or no short-term trading activity. This approach aims at long-term gains through low-cost investments such as index funds or exchange-traded funds (ETFs). In this form of investment, the goal is not to generate high returns but rather to earn steady income over time through regular interest, and dividend distribution without actively managing portfolio allocations.

An analogy that could be used here is relating active trading to driving at high speeds while continually adjusting turns based on track feedback and weather conditions – applying quick micro-needs adjustments/decisions frequently compared to a passive automobile enthusiast who’s cruising on scenic roads without altering routes with much precision. Active trading is for those who enjoy the rush of quick profits through shorter-term trading – but requires time, experience, and in-depth know-how to do it just right.

Both active trading and passive investing can be profitable depending on a trader's goals, skill level, and risk tolerance. For beginners, passive investing might be the better choice as the volatility of the stock market can be intimidating. Index funds are an excellent starting point as they provide broad diversification across multiple sectors, lowering overall sector-specific risks for a lower cost than more actively managed option investments.

Experienced traders may argue that active trading offers greater opportunities for insights into market trends, giving them an edge over passive investors who rely mainly on qualitative analysis. However, there are also risks associated with more short-term trading, such as high fees and frequent impulse-driven decisions based on emotional responses to news or rumours.

With this in mind, our next section will focus on using fundamental and technical analysis to evaluate investment performance which is crucial when adjusting your portfolio according to your choices after determining what type of investor/trader you would like to become.

Active Trading vs. Passive Investing

One of the first decisions you'll need to make when starting with trading is whether to practise active or passive investment strategies. Active trading involves buying and selling securities more frequently, while passive investing involves holding stocks over a longer period of time.

Active traders typically attempt to beat the stock market’s returns by analysing market trends and executing rapid trades in response to short-term movements. On the other hand, passive investors choose to buy and hold a set of securities that mirror the overall market or a particular index for extended periods.

According to research, passive investing has consistently outperformed active investing in recent years due largely to lower fees, reduced transaction costs, and tracking error. Actively managed funds have higher expenses and often eye-popping turnovers, which lead to higher tax bills for investors as well. Furthermore, tracking error is the measure of an asset manager's performance compared to the benchmark that they were supposed to track. Over long periods, few managers are entirely successful in consistently beating their benchmark.

However, some investors argue that active trading can offer greater returns if done correctly and with discipline. A skilled trader can potentially generate high returns by forecasting short term price movements through a well-defined methodology that is a mix of technical and fundamental analysis.

For instance, an active trader with adequate knowledge may be able to identify patterns across multiple markets that predict stock price fluctuations accurately from available data such as news headlines or economic snapshots. They might develop a strategy utilising charts which can help identify buying and selling opportunities based on graphical trends and patterns from price movements.

Ultimately, whether you decide on active trading or passive investing depends upon your personality traits like risk tolerance ability, background knowledge about the markets among others. Before making any decision it's important to understand each approach's risks and rewards.

Fundamental and Technical Analysis

Fundamental analyses involve evaluating the intrinsic value of a security by examining its financial and economic factors like revenue, earnings, industry trends, and macroeconomic indicators in the case of forex trading or central bank policy. Technical analysis on the other hand is more focused on analysing market sentiment and supply and demand dynamics.

Think of it this way: Fundamental analysis is like inspecting the engine, transmission, and brakes to determine if a car is worth buying. Technical analysis would be akin to checking the paint job, upholstery, wheels, or any cosmetic changes that may affect the vehicle's aesthetic value.

In contrast to fundamental analysis, technical analysis uses charts and time-series data to examine historical patterns to find signals about where prices are heading next. Technical analysts rely heavily on chart patterns such as trendlines, moving averages with specific periods like 20-day and 50-day averages among others as well as oscillators like RSI and MACD along with pivot points or support and resistance levels.

For example, an analyst observing a stock that has repeatedly bounced off support at $20 over six months might conclude that the $20 level is an essential level for the stock price. If the stock stays above $20 then it could hold that position going forward while a break below could signal further downside momentum.

While technical analysts contend that studying historic patterns can provide valuable insights into future market behaviour, fundamentalists argue that markets are not wholly efficient 'pricing mechanisms' which react only to economic conditions but also to other factors such as corporate events, natural calamities amongst others making it challenging to predict.

Keep in mind that both fundamental analysis and technical analysis have notable strengths for each approach may fit different investor needs. Fundamental analysis focuses on helping investors understand whether a company’s fundamentals match its current market valuation, offering a long-term perspective. At the same time, technical analysis can help traders identify trends and patterns in shorter periods, giving insights into potential short-term price action. As a beginner, familiarising yourself with both strategies will help shape your trading style and inform your eventual decision-making process.

Getting Started with Trading

If you are considering trading in the stock market, there are a few key things to keep in mind before diving in. First and foremost, you need to have a clear understanding of how the stock market works, and what factors can influence its performance. Additionally, you will need to establish a trading strategy that aligns with your goals and risk tolerance, as well as select a broker that provides the tools and resources you need to execute trades effectively.

To start, it’s important to understand the difference between active trading and passive investing. Active traders typically buy and sell securities frequently, with the goal of generating returns over a short period of time. This requires an active approach to market analysis and research, as well as careful attention to current events and trends that may impact the market. In contrast, passive investors take a longer-term approach, buying stocks or other securities with the intention of holding onto them for years or even decades.

Think of investing like planting seeds in a garden; some plants require frequent watering and attention (active trading), while others simply need to be planted and left alone to grow (passive investing). Both approaches have their pros and cons depending on your goals and level of commitment.

Once you have established your investment strategy, the next step is to open an account with a brokerage firm. There are many different types of brokers available, from traditional full-service firms to online discount brokers that offer lower fees but minimal personal advice. When selecting a broker, consider factors such as fees, account minimums, customer service and support, trading platforms, research tools, and educational resources.

Some traders prefer working with full-service brokers for their specialisation in certain areas such as retirement planning or tax management. However, others may prefer self-directed brokerage accounts where they have more control over their own investments. It is important to weigh the pros and cons of each type of broker to determine which one will meet your specific needs.

In the next section, we will explore some of the factors that you should consider when selecting a broker for your trading activities.

Selecting a Broker

Choosing the right broker is critical to achieving success in trading. With so many options available, it can be overwhelming to determine which one is right for you. Here are some of the key factors that you should take into account when making your decision:

Fees: One of the most important factors to consider when selecting a broker is the fee structure. Some brokers charge fees per trade, while others have a flat-rate commission or percentage-based fees. It’s important to evaluate these fees in terms of your overall trading volume and budget.

Account Minimums: Another factor to consider is any account minimums required by the broker. Some firms may require significant investments upfront, while others have low or no minimum balances. Be sure to consider any additional charges or penalties associated with maintaining certain account balances.

Trading Platforms: A good trading platform is essential for executing trades effectively and efficiently. Make sure that any broker you considering provides access to a reliable trading platform with features such as real-time data, order management tools, and customizable dashboards.

Think of trading platforms like a car; just as different cars have varying features and capabilities depending on your needs (e.g., four-wheel drive for off-road driving), brokers offer different types of trading platforms designed for different types of traders.

Research Tools: Access to research and analysis tools is also essential for making informed trading decisions. Look for brokers that provide objective market insights and analysis, as well as easy-to-use charting tools and historical data.

Customer Support: Finally, consider the level of customer support and guidance available from your chosen broker. Do they offer phone or online support? Are resources such as educational materials and webinars available?

In the next section, we will explore some specific brokers and their offerings to help you make an informed decision about selecting a broker for your trading activities.

Opening an Account and Setting Up a Portfolio

Opening an account and setting up a portfolio is the first step towards your trading journey. The process can seem overwhelming for beginners, but with a little research and guidance, it can be done quickly and easily. The first thing you need to do is select a broker that suits your needs.

For instance, if you prefer to invest in stocks, ETFs, and bonds, look for brokers that specialise in these types of securities. Alternatively, if you're interested in trading cryptocurrencies or forex, seek out a broker who specialises in those markets. Schwab offers various resources and tools suitable for beginners, including educational materials and trading platforms that can ease the complexity of trading.

Once you have selected the broker, the next step is to open an account and set up a portfolio. This requires choosing between different types of accounts such as cash accounts or margin accounts. A cash account requires the trader to deposit money into their account before making trades; whereas a margin account allows traders to borrow money from the brokerage firm to make trades.

While a margin account amplifies gains or losses of any trade made by borrowing money from the brokerage firm, it also increases risk exponentially. It is highly recommended for beginner traders that they avoid using margin accounts until they understand all aspects of trading thoroughly.

Opening an account with different brokerage firms requires paperwork that includes signing Agreement Forms for Securities Trading accounts, Investing Accounts enrolment forms among others, similar to opening bank accounts at different banks.

After opening an account and choosing between different types of accounts available depending on our investment goals and risk appetite comes setting up our portfolio diversification techniques.

Risk Management and Diversification

Every trader should know how important it is to manage risks when trading in the stock market. When one gets into active trading, the need for effective risk management becomes even more crucial. Properly managing risks can prevent losses and make trading more profitable in the long run. One of the simplest and most effective ways to manage risk is by diversifying our investment portfolio.

For instance, if you're investing all your money into a single stock, your risk will be high because you are dependent on one company's performance. In contrast, if you spread out your investments among several stocks, bonds, or ETFs, you'll not only have diversified your portfolio but also reduced risks.

Diversification techniques can be done in many ways; some traders choose to invest in companies from different sectors while others opt to allocate a percentage amount of their portfolio to bonds, commodities, or mutual funds. Doing so reduces the overall risk of failure as different sectors balance each other and give the portfolio a hedge against unexpected market conditions like economic recessions or pandemics.

It's important to note that diversification doesn't come without its own set of challenges. Sometimes diversifying too much may not yield the desired results. Also, adding individual assets to our portfolios should be thoroughly researched and analysed before making any decisions.

Diversification is similar to a farmer planting different crops across his farmland in respective seasons; when one crop fails due to environmental factors affecting it, there are other crops that compensate for its shortfall giving an overall profitable yield in the end.

Risk management and diversification techniques are essential when opening an account and setting up our portfolios since they help minimise expectations of high returns without considering the risks involved.

Position Sizing and Stop Loss

One of the essential steps in trading is position sizing and implementing stop-loss orders, which can help to manage risk effectively. Position sizing refers to determining the amount of money to invest in a trade, while a stop-loss order is an instruction to sell a security when it reaches a certain price.

For instance, let's say an investor decides to buy 100 shares of ABC company at $50 per share with a stop-loss order at $45. If the stock drops below $45, the stop-loss order will trigger, and the investor will automatically sell their shares at that price. By setting up stop-loss orders for each trade, investors reduce their risk exposure.

While setting up stop losses may seem like an easy decision, it requires careful consideration of the market conditions. A tight or close stop loss placement might result in premature liquidation before experiencing any positive trend movement. On the other hand, a loose or wide stop loss may expose traders to more risk than they are comfortable with accepting.

Many traders face difficulty in deciding how much money should be allocated for each trade. While some traders may choose to take on high-risk trades and allocate a significant portion of their capital in one trade, others might prefer investing smaller capital in multiple trades to minimise potential losses.

Position sizing and installing stop losses can be compared to driving at night with headlights on as both provide clarity and visibility. Without headlights, drivers cannot see what's ahead on the road and eventually crash into obstacles. Similarly, without position sizing and stop losses, traders are not aware of their potential risks and rewards, leading to unexpected losses.

Let's now explore portfolio diversification techniques that traders use to spread risk across various asset classes.

Portfolio Diversification Techniques

Portfolio diversification involves investing in different assets or asset classes to reduce exposure to the risks of any specific security. By diversifying investments, traders can minimise risk and increase their chances of generating returns.

For example, suppose an investor decides to invest 100% of their capital in a single stock, and if that company experiences financial difficulties or even a minor setback, the investor's entire portfolio is at risk. On the other hand, if the same investor allocates 50% of their capital in three diversified stocks and the other 50% in a bond fund with varying maturities, the risk is spread across multiple asset classes.

The advantage of diversification is that portfolios provide potential opportunities for generating returns enough to compensate for investors' risk levels. However, it doesn't entirely guarantee positive outcomes as some assets may be correlated. For instance, during periods of inflation where real estate prices can rise, it can lead to higher loan interest which affects the bond market.

While portfolio diversification is crucial for long-term investment success, some argue that over-diversification isn’t beneficial as it waters down investment returns. Others suggest that instead of over-diversifying, finding good funds within each category can enhance portfolio returns.

Portfolio diversification can be compared to playing a game of chess. Just like chess requires playing different pieces collaboratively with different strategies and positions toward winning the game, investors also need to put together various investments strategically by picking the right mix of property holdings, equity funds, and debt securities.

By implementing position sizing techniques and installing stop losses as well as applying portfolio diversification strategies traders improve their chances of trading successfully.

Disclaimer: information contained herein is provided without considering your personal circumstances, therefore should not be construed as financial advice, investment recommendation or an offer of, or solicitation for, any transactions in cryptocurrencies.