What Does Market Cap Mean In Stock Trading?

What Does Market Cap Mean In Stock Trading?

The stock market is home to thousands of stocks from a wide range of industries. Investors can choose between early-stage startups to industry giants with considerable market share and balance their portfolios accordingly. 

However, what is the difference between large and small companies and how do we measure the size of a company that trades stocks on an exchange?

Market capitalization, or market cap for short, is the primary metric of valuing a public company based on how the market sees its market value. 

Market cap is a metric that is derived by multiplying the number of shares traded by a company on an exchange by the price of a single share. 

This is useful in quickly discerning the relative size of the business behind the stock and for professionals it is a tool to measure the actual enterprise value of the company, as opposed to its market value to see whether the stock is overvalued or undervalued at the current price. 

Market Cap Definition And Usage

As already mentioned above, market cap is a metric that measures the size of a company by multiplying its outstanding shares by the price per share. It is important to make the distinction between market cap and the equity on a company’s balance sheet, which are different terms. 

Market Cap = Current Stock Price × Total Outstanding Shares. 

Market capitalization shows a few key things about a company, such as:

  • Size - Market cap is a measure of a company's size in terms of its total market value. It reflects how much investors are willing to pay for the company's ownership through its stock
  • Relative importance - Market cap helps categorize companies into different groups based on their size. These groups typically include large, mid, small, micro, and nano cap stocks
  • Investor interest - Market cap can also give an indication of the level of interest from investors. Larger companies with higher market caps often attract more attention from institutional investors and analysts

Using Market Cap To Value Companies

Market cap is also a vital tool in determining the actual value of a company. The stock market can be full of wild swings in either direction, which can lead to stocks being overbought or oversold in accordance with investor sentiments. This can blur the realistic market value of a company as a whole, which is why many analysts use the metric as a comparison benchmark in their calculations. 

There are several ways of using market cap in stock valuation, such as:

  • Comparative analysis - Market cap is often used for comparative analysis. Investors and analysts compare the market caps of different companies within the same industry or sector to gain insights into their relative sizes and positions
  • Index inclusion - Many stock market indices, such as the S&P 500 or the NASDAQ-100, are composed of companies selected based on their market cap. Companies with larger market caps are more likely to be included in these indices, and their performance can affect the overall index's performance
  • Valuation metrics - Market cap is used in conjunction with other valuation metrics like price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio, price-to-sales (P/S) ratio, and price-to-book (P/B) ratio to assess whether a stock is overvalued or undervalued relative to its peers or historical averages
  • Acquisitions and mergers - In the context of mergers and acquisitions, market cap plays a role in determining the potential purchase price of a company. Acquirers often pay a premium over the target company's current market cap to gain control

While market cap might not be an accurate depiction of the true size of a company, it is nonetheless a vital metric when it comes to assessing enterprise value and balancing a stock portfolio. 

Key Takeaways From What Does Market Cap Mean In Stock Trading

  • Market cap is a metric that measures the relative size of a company that trades its shares on an exchange
  • Companies differ greatly in terms of their market capitalization 
  • Market caps are useful metrics to determine the real book value of a company and is also often used in comparative analysis
  • The market cap of a company is also pivotal in determining its acquisition price in the case of another entity buying out its shares from the market 

FAQs On What Does Market Cap Mean In Stock Trading

How is market cap calculated?

The market cap figure is calculated by multiplying the total number of outstanding shares by the price per share. Companies can range from large to nano-cap in terms of market capitalization. 

Is market cap the size of a company?

A high market cap does not necessarily mean that the company’s book value is also as high. Market cap can be skewed based on investors’ sentiments and a stock can be overvalued or undervalued at any point in time. 

Is a high market cap good?

A high market cap means that the company either has a lot of outstanding shares, or a high share price, which makes the company highly valued by the market, attracting a lot of interest from individual and institutional investors.