The float of a stock is another important factor that can help you make a proper decision when it comes to picking a winning stock. The float is simply how many shares there are available for trade on the open market. Most finance sites will give you this information if you dig just a little. The float is a crucial thing to consider, because it is part of the equation that gets you to the earnings per share. (Net Income/Number Of Shares Or Float = Earnings Per Share)
Remember how important the EPS or Earnings Per Share is too, as it drives the most basic stock equation (EPS * Stock's Multiple = Price). Generally, I believe that the smaller the float the better. It breaks down to simple supply and demand. If a stock has a small float and gets a piece of great news they will go up a lot faster then one with a large float, simply because there isn't very many shares out there to buy. Watch out though because this can also work the opposite way. Check out what happen to VDSI which has only 37 million shares of float after it missed earnings estimates, just painful!
This is also were buybacks and stock splits come into play. A company that has passed it's growth phase needs to increase it's EPS somehow, so it simply starts reducing it's float by buying back it's own shares. The less shares on the market the easier it is to raise your Earnings Per Share and keep the shareholders happy! Take a look at Boeing (BA), they just announced a big buyback and the stock was rewarded.
Now when a stock split occurs you are normally just increasing or rarely decreasing the float. Lets say you have a 2 for 1 split. If the float was 50 million before the split it is now 100 million or if it was 10 million before now it is 20 million... just that simple!
Here are a few basic companies to look at that have a small float...
Cogent (COGT) 94 million shares, Vasco Data Securities (VDSI) with 37 million shares, Ormat (ORA) with 38 million shares, Zoltec (ZOLT) with only 29 million shares of float!
Compare that to some of the bigger companies out there, Microsoft (MSFT) with 9.3 billion, Motorola (MOT) with 2.2 billion and General Electric (GE) with a whopping 10.2 billion!
Basically, it is a lot easier to move a stock that has a small float, not only that, but a stock with a small float has a lot of room to grow, which is always a good thing when you are looking for great long term investments...
Picture Taken By Paul Clos