Generally, any stock that trades outside the major stock exchanges and also that is taken as depreciatory is known as “penny stock”. These major stock exchanges include NYSE, AMEX or NASDAQ. Sometimes the terms penny stocks, small caps, and nano caps are brought into use without interchangeably. But the rank of the penny stock is determined by share price, not by market capitalization or listing service.
Market caps of penny stock are often less than $500 million. Those that trade on low volumes over the counter take it as highly speculative. It is believed that it may prove hard task to sell penny stocks, once they are purchased. This is because of the fact that it may sometimes be difficult to locate quotations for particular penny stocks. Investors in penny stocks are expected to remain ready to face the possibility of losing their entire investment.
Nevertheless, the penny stock is able to lure new investors with its low price and its possibility to receive speedy profits that may reach up to one hundred percent in certain cases. In a very similar way, there always remains the possibility of severe drops that may even reach over 90 percent in the long term. Penny stocks are considered as investments, in which risk factor is highly involved. Consequently, investors must be aware of the various risks that are involved, such as limited liquidity, lack of financial reporting and fraud.
If liquidity is given prominence, then penny stock has very fewer shareholders. It is less “liquid”; this term means that in comparison to a larger company, it will buy and sell less shares. Any unnoticed change in the demand or supply can result in the unpredictability of stock price. Consequently, it may lead to the rapid rise in the stock price or bring it down to the earth. Therefore, due to the lack of liquidity and volatility, penny stock is more likely to be exploited by management, market markers or third parties. It becomes very tough to sell a stock specifically on a day, when there are no buyers because of the lack of liquidity.
Another reason is that to remain on the OTCBB, the listing requirements are very minimal as compared to NASDAQ or NYSE. Generally, what happens is that those companies which could not make on bigger exchanges or have been de-listed, here they have an opportunity to get re-listed on the OTCBB or Pink Sheets.
Moreover, if compared to major markets, stocks trading on the Pink Sheets hardly have any regulatory or listing requirements. There is nothing to provide protection to shareholders such as accounting standards, change in notification of ownership of shares and so on.
All these features make it easy to use penny stock in any deceitful scheme. However this does not mean that all stocks that are listed on the OTCBB are deceitful. A number of stocks on the OTCBB have fair-trading.