How to Find Stocks Under a Dollar

A trader at the New York Stock Exchange looks at a computer.
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The investment world has a multiverse of cheap stocks that trade off the major exchanges. For the most part, these "penny stocks" represent shares in smaller or startup companies that have limited revenue or no revenue at all. They're not hard to find; your real challenge lies in avoiding "pump and dump" fraudsters and not getting burned once you've invested money in a high-risk stock.

Broker Screens

Join an online broker. You'll need to supply basic contact information as well as your Social Security number. Once your account is set up, the broker should have a stock screener available for use. This allows you to search for stocks by various parameters: earnings per share, relative price strength versus the market, beta (volatility) and share price. Set a simple screen for a maximum price of 99 cents. You'll get thousands of returns; the stocks will be listed by price and ticker symbol. You can further narrow the search by setting another parameter. Alternatively, financial media make free stock screeners available; check out Yahoo Finance and CNBC.

Researching the Sites

Search for websites that specialize in penny stocks, but beware. Typically, these sites will tease you with hot-tip alerts that tout stocks supposedly on the brink of an explosive upside breakout. When the share price is less than a dollar, the stock in theory has plenty of room to roam, promising a stratospheric investment return. The downside, of course, is that these alerts are in many cases paid-for promotions that are the very opposite of disinterested financial research. When a stock promoter pumps a stock, the sharks have already bought in and are waiting for the innocent and hopeful to push the price higher -- before they unload and the stock craters.

Dutiful Diligence

Go to a site that specializes in research into the ever-fascinating financial shenanigans of the penny stock world. One excellent resource is Hot Stocked, which runs short but thorough investigations into stocks that have seen notable market action, for reasons legal and otherwise. You'll find plenty of sub-dollar stocks on straight research sites; what you really need, however, are solid numbers on a company's revenues, profit margins, balance sheet and recent earnings or losses per share.

Ear to the Financial Ground

Check out online message boards. Investors Hub, for example, has become an informational behemoth in the world of over-the-counter and penny stocks. There are hundreds of forums and message boards on the site that offer a totally unfiltered plethora of tips, touts, shout-outs, outraged vents and breathless optimism on the part of cheap-stock investors. Tread carefully in such media, however, as paid promoters and "front runners" are abundant and have no qualms about talking up basically worthless companies for their own benefit.