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A stock broker refers to a brokerage firm that facilitates, through a trading platform, the buying and selling of securities, such as stocks, bonds, and other investment products, on behalf of its clients.
These firms can offer a range of services from basic execution of trades to comprehensive research, financial planning, and advisory services.
To rank the best brokers for buying and investing in stocks, we considered the following factors:
- The broker’s commissions
- The number of markets offered on the platform
- The investment flexibility offered
- The broker’s minimum deposit
- The overall quality of the broker
What are the best stock brokers?
Below our curated list of the best stock brokers, with details of features and characteristics.
Investing in a whole stock vs fractional stock
The main differences between investing in whole shares and fractional shares are the amount of money needed to make the purchase and the flexibility in managing the portfolio even with little money.
A fractional share is, as the name suggests, a portion of a whole share. Today, some stock brokers allow one to buy small slices of shares that would normally require hundreds if not thousands of USD to buy.
This is also reflected in the benefits that that shares could provide, such as dividends. These too will be proportionate to the fraction of the share purchased.
Flexibility, on the other hand, is the other plus point, especially for those who want to invest small amounts. Professionals try to balance their portfolio by buying different stocks in different markets.
A well-balanced portfolio is in fact one of the keys to limiting the volatility of one’s investments, but tens of thousands of USD are often required to have a balanced portfolio.
Fractional stocks, on the other hand, allow you to invest in expensive stocks for cheap, which makes it possible to expose your portfolio to many companies and markets with more flexibility. By purchasing a fractional share, dividends, if any, will also be fractional.
Below you can find an example of investing in a $100 share that offers an annual dividend of $1.
What to buy: real shares or CFD shares?
For long-term investing, real shares are always the best choice, whereas if you want to speculate on the short term, CFD shares are the most suitable derivative.
CFDs lend themselves well to short-term trading because they involve the use of leverage, and above all, one can open both long and short positions depending on the direction of the market.
The main problem with CFDs, however, is the presence of swap commissions. Swap commissions are interest of a few cents that the broker charges each day at the close of the market if you leave your trading position open.
This means that over the long term, a CFD stock will accumulate a large number of small daily commissions that over time will erode potential gains or compound losses.
Real shares, on the other hand, as well as fractional shares, do not charge overnight commissions and can therefore be held over the long term without worrying about management costs.
In the following example you will find the costs of buying and managing an Apple share on eToro (140 USD).
|CFD long (leverage 1:5)
|CFD short (leverage 1:5)
|Overnight costs (per week)
|Overnight costs (per month)
|Total costs (after 3 months)
What happens when you buy stocks on a broker
When purchasing a share, the broker acts as an intermediary with the stock exchange to fulfil the client’s order. Typically, the shares purchased are not actually owned by the client, but are held in the client’s name in omnibus accounts.
Omnibus accounts are segregated accounts owned by the broker in which the broker deposits the shares and/or financial instruments purchased by all clients.
Although the shares are in fact owned by the broker, the broker labels each share in the omnibus account so that they are kept in the name of the client who made the purchase.
Why do many brokers use omnibus accounts?
Brokers use omnibus accounts to cut costs and offer more competitive commissions. They also allow them to offer a range of additional services such as fractional shares.
What happens is that, for example, if a share is worth $100, the broker would not be able to buy only part of it if it were to be owned by the customer.
However, if 4 clients place a $25 purchase order on a share that is worth $100, the broker can buy it and keep the whole share in his omnibus account, thus allocating 25% of the share to each of these clients.
The result is that the share is de facto owned by the broker, but the broker internally allocates it to the clients who have requested it.
Useful resources for investing in shares
Stock brokers generally offer a good number of additional services for investors.
These include economic calendars to monitor economic decisions that could shake up the markets.
Other calendars that can be found on brokers like eToro are dividend and earnings calendars, which help to monitor when a company will distribute its next dividend, and when a company will publish its financial status report, respectively.
However, very often brokers lack advanced tools to monitor the markets, or their platform makes it complex or unintuitive to monitor the stocks of interest.
There are several services for this purpose, including:
Finviz: a site that allows one to filter stocks via its ‘screener’ function. The user can apply over 60 different filters based on descriptive characteristics, fundamental analysis, and technical analysis of the stock.
Morningstar: is one of the main hubs for monitoring the stock market at a fundamental level. Morningstar’s database makes it possible to monitor, compare and verify the financial status of thousands of companies. With a subscription, you can also get stock-specific information and analysis (such as Fair Value calculations) from Morningstar analysts.
Yahoo Finance: Here you can find news, market overviews, and even specific information on stocks you are interested in.
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