Common Stock: Meaning and Types

Common Stock: Meaning and Types

6 mins readComment
Chanchal
Chanchal Aggarwal
Senior Executive Content
Updated on Jan 5, 2024 18:29 IST

Common stock signifies ownership in a company, granting voting rights and a share of profits. Investors assume higher risk for potential capital gains, with dividends being discretionary. In the event of liquidation, common stockholders have a residual claim after satisfying bondholders and preferred stockholders.

Common stock represents a fundamental component of the stock market, embodying ownership shares in publicly traded companies. Investors holding common stock gain potential financial benefits through dividends and capital appreciation, directly linked to the company's performance. As the most prevalent form of equity investment, common stock plays a pivotal role in the stock market, offering investors a share in corporate profits and decision-making, while reflecting the dynamic nature of market forces and investor sentiment.

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Table of Content

What is Common Stock?

Common stock is a type of equity that represents ownership in a corporation, granting shareholders voting rights and a share in the company's profits through dividends. However, dividends are not guaranteed and vary based on profitability. Common stockholders benefit from capital appreciation but bear higher risks, including potential loss of investment. In liquidation, they have the lowest priority claim on assets, only receiving payouts after debts and preferred shareholders are satisfied.

Example of Common Stock

Alice invests in XYZ Corporation by purchasing its common stock. As the company prospers, its stock value increases, boosting Alice's investment value. She also receives annual dividends, a share of XYZ's profits. Additionally, Alice exercises her voting rights in shareholder meetings, influencing company decisions. However, if XYZ faces financial issues, her investment value might decrease, and dividends could be reduced or halted.

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Non-Cumulative Preference Shares: Meaning and Example
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Type of Common Stock

Voting and Non-Voting Common Stock:

Voting Common Stock: This type allows shareholders to vote on corporate matters like electing the board of directors and important corporate policies. One share typically equals one vote.

Non-Voting Common Stock: Shareholders do not have voting rights in the company's decisions. These stocks are often issued to maintain control by the founders or to raise capital without diluting voting power.

Growth Stocks:

These are shares of companies that reinvest their profits to accelerate growth. They generally do not pay dividends, but investors buy them for the potential of capital appreciation as the company grows.

Value Stocks:

Value stocks are shares of companies that are considered to be undervalued in the market. They often have lower price-to-earnings ratios and may offer dividends. Investors buy them for their potential for future appreciation.

Income Stocks:

These are shares of companies that regularly pay high dividends. They are attractive to investors seeking a steady income stream, often found in well-established companies with stable earnings.

Blue-Chip Stocks:

Shares of large, financially stable, and well-established companies that have a history of reliable growth and dividend payments. They are generally considered safer investments.

Speculative Stocks:

These represent companies with the potential for high growth or significant value increase but come with a high level of risk. They are often newer companies with volatile stock prices.

Cyclical and Non-Cyclical Stocks:

Cyclical Stocks: Shares of companies whose performance is closely tied to the economic cycle, such as luxury goods and travel.

Non-Cyclical Stocks: Shares of companies that are relatively stable regardless of the economy, like utilities and consumer staples.

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Preferred vs Common Stock

Aspect

Preferred Stock

Common Stock

Dividends

Fixed and prioritized

Variable, dependent on profitability

Voting Rights

Generally no voting rights

Voting rights on corporate matters

Risk Level

Lower risk with fixed dividends

Higher risk with potential for rewards

Liquidation Preference

Higher claim on assets in liquidation

Paid after preferred stockholders

Capital Growth

Limited potential for appreciation

High potential for capital appreciation

Income Focus

Suited for income-focused investors

Attracts growth-oriented investors

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Advantages of Common Stock

Potential for Capital Appreciation

Common stockholders can benefit significantly from the capital appreciation of their shares. If the company performs well, its stock price typically increases, potentially offering high returns when shares are sold.

This aspect is particularly attractive for investors looking for growth in their investment portfolio, as the potential for returns can be much higher compared to fixed-income investments like bonds.

Dividend Income

Although not guaranteed, common stocks often pay dividends, providing shareholders with a share of the company's profits.

This can be a source of regular income for investors. Over time, companies that consistently pay dividends can offer a steady income stream, sometimes with the potential for dividend growth.

Voting Rights

Common stock typically comes with voting rights, allowing shareholders to vote on important company matters like electing the board of directors and making major corporate decisions.

This gives investors a voice in the company’s management and direction, aligning their interests with the company’s success.

Liquidity

Common stocks are generally highly liquid, especially those listed on major stock exchanges. This means they can be easily bought and sold.

High liquidity allows investors to quickly react to market conditions, easily enter or exit positions, and access their invested capital.

Diversification

Investing in common stocks across various sectors and industries can help diversify an investment portfolio, reducing overall risk.

Diversification can protect against market volatility and sector-specific downturns, offering a more balanced and resilient investment approach.

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Disadvantages of Common Stock

Market Volatility

Common stock prices are subject to market fluctuations, influenced by various factors like economic conditions, company performance, and investor sentiment. This can lead to significant price swings in a short period.

Investors in common stock face the risk of substantial losses, especially if they need to sell shares during a market downturn. This volatility demands a higher risk tolerance and a well-thought-out investment strategy.

No Dividend Guarantee

Dividends on common stock are not guaranteed and depend on the company's profitability and dividend policy. Companies may reduce or skip dividend payments in tough financial times.

Investors seeking a consistent income stream might find common stock unreliable. The uncertainty of dividends can be particularly challenging for income-dependent investors, like retirees.

Last Claim in Liquidation

In the event of a company's liquidation, common stockholders are the last to be paid after all debts, bonds, and preferred shares have been settled.

There's a significant risk that common stockholders might receive nothing if the company goes bankrupt, leading to a total loss of the invested capital.

Limited Control Over Management

Although common stockholders have voting rights, individual investors typically have a negligible influence over corporate decisions unless they own a substantial amount of stock.

This minimal influence can be frustrating, especially if the company's management makes decisions that negatively impact stock prices or dividend policies.

Potential Dilution of Shares

Companies may issue more shares to raise capital, which can lead to the dilution of existing shares. This means a decrease in the ownership percentage of current shareholders.

Share dilution can adversely affect the stock's value and the individual shareholder's voting power. It can also dilute earnings per share (EPS), potentially impacting dividend payments and the attractiveness of the stock.

Top FAQs on Common Stock

What is common stock?

Common stock is a type of security that represents ownership in a corporation. Shareholders of common stock often have voting rights on corporate matters but are last in line for company assets in case of liquidation.

How does common stock differ from preferred stock?

 Common stockholders usually have voting rights and receive dividends that fluctuate with the company's profitability. Preferred stockholders typically have no voting rights but receive fixed dividends and have priority over common stockholders in receiving dividends and assets during liquidation.

What are the benefits of investing in common stock?

The main benefits include potential capital appreciation, dividends, voting rights, and liquidity. Common stock can increase in value over time and may pay dividends, offering a return on investment

What are the risks associated with common stock?

The primary risk is the volatility in stock prices, which can lead to potential loss of capital. The value of common stock can fluctuate widely based on the company's performance, market conditions, and broader economic factors.

How can investors buy common stock?

Investors can purchase common stock through stock exchanges using brokerage accounts. Stocks are bought and sold on public markets, like the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) or NASDAQ

About the Author
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Chanchal Aggarwal
Senior Executive Content

Chanchal is a creative and enthusiastic content creator who enjoys writing research-driven, audience-specific and engaging content. Her curiosity for learning and exploring makes her a suitable writer for a variety ... Read Full Bio