Let’s imagine that you have decided to put 60 percent of your savings into stock, and to achieve diversification, you have decided to buy 20 different stocks. If you open up the newspaper, you will find thousands of stocks listed. How should you pick the 20 for your portfolio? When you buy stock, you are buying shares in a business. When deciding which businesses you want to own, it is natural to consider two things: the value of the business and the price at which the shares are being sold. If the price is less than the value, the stock is said to be undervalued. If the price is more than the value, the stock is said to be overvalued. If the price and the value are equal, the stock is said to be fairly valued. When choosing 20 stocks for your portfolio, you should prefer undervalued stocks. In these cases, you are getting a bargain by paying less than the business is worth. This is easier said than done. Learning the price is easy: You can just look it up in the newspaper. Determining the value of the business is the hard part. The term fundamental analysis refers to the detailed analysis of a company to determine its value. Many Wall Street firms hire stock analysts to conduct such fundamental analysis and offer advice about which stocks to buy The value of a stock to a stockholder is what he gets out of owning it, which includes the present value of the stream of dividend payments and the final sale price. Recall that dividends are the cash payments that a company makes to its shareholders. A company’s ability to pay dividends, as well as the value of the stock when the stockholder sells his shares, depends on the company’s ability to earn profits. Its profitability, in turn, depends on a large number of factors the demand for its product, how much competition it faces, how much capital it has in place, whether its workers are unionized, how loyal its customers are, what kinds of government and taxes it faces, and so on. The job of fundamental analysts is to take all these factors into account-to determine how much a hare of stock in the company is worth.
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