The term penny stocks generally refers to any stocks that trade outside the major stock exchanges and is taken as ‘deprecatory’. The major stock exchanges would include: NASDAQ, AMEX, or NYSE. The term Penny stock is also often used interchangeably with small caps and nano caps. The title of penny stock however should be determined by the share price rather than the listing service or market capitalization.
Penny stocks often have market caps lower than $500 million. This makes it highly speculative for those who trade low volumes ‘over the counter’. Some believe that penny stocks are difficult to sell once purchased because of the difficulty in locating quotes on particular penny stocks. Investors in these stocks are expected to understand that the loss of their entire investment is a viable risk.
Despite the risks involved, penny stocks are attractive to new investors because of the low initial price and the possibility of quick payouts of up to 100 percent in some circumstances. Just as there is the potential of high profits, that potential comes with the risk of substantial losses. Penny stocks are considered high-risk investments. As a result investors should be aware that these stocks have a limited amount of liquidity and fraud in addition to a lack of financial reporting.
Penny stocks have fewer shareholders. This makes them less liquid than stocks of larger companies. It also means that it will buy and sell less shares. The fact that less shares are traded generally results in unpredictable stock prices. This can either make the prices rise sharply or suddenly decline. The lack of liquidity within this market leaves it wide open to exploitations by market makers, management, and other parties. These stocks can also be difficult to sell quickly as some days there simply are no buyers.
Another reason for this lack of liquidity is the minimal listing requirements for smaller market listings as compared to NASDAQ or NYSE. Companies that have fallen below requirements for the larger exchanges have the opportunity to get listed on the OTCBB or Pink Sheets.
If you are comparing Pink Sheets to the major exchanges you might want to take note of the fact that Pink Sheets have very few regulatory requirements for those being listed. In other words, there is little protection in place for shareholders by way of accounting standards, notifications of ownerships of shares, etc.
These things combined make penny stocks very attractive tools for fraud. This does not at all mean that all stocks listed on the OTCBB are untrustworthy, it simply means that you should keep your eyes open when making deals on this market.