Spread bets and CFDs are complex instruments and come with a high risk of losing money rapidly due to leverage. 71% of retail investor accounts lose money when spread betting and/or trading CFDs with this provider. You should consider whether you understand how spread bets and CFDs work and whether you can afford to take the high risk of losing your money.

Buying and selling shares

Share trading​ is the buying and selling of company stock with the aim of making a profit. Shares represent a portion of ownership of a public company. They make up its market capitalisation, or in other words, its value.

For a trader, share (or stock) trading is one of the most popular ways to invest, but there are different ways you can approach share trading. You can make money trading stocks from home​ and on-the-go with our flexible and easy to use online trading platform.

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What is share trading?

When share trading, you buy and take ownership of company stock and sell the stock for a higher price with the aim of making a profit. In this instance, you would normally open a ‘nominee’ account. A stockbroker will often place trades on your behalf, for a small fee. Most share trading takes place on stock exchanges where public companies are listed. This method involves buying and selling shares outright through spot or forward contracts.

Investment is not limited to stock market indices and shares. You can also invest in exchange traded funds and mutual funds, or diversify your investment portfolio even further by investing in stocks and bonds. Alternatively, you can use derivative products like spread bets - UK only - and contracts for difference (CFDs) to trade shares. This way, you can take a long or short position and take advantage of rising and falling share prices. With spread betting and CFD trading, you do not take ownership of the actual shares you are trading. You simply speculate on whether you expect prices to rise or fall and take a position accordingly. For this reason, you do not pay stamp duty when you spread bet on shares or trade share CFDs in the UK, however, you do pay capital gains tax on CFDs and laws are subject to change in the UK.

Trading vs investing in shares

The main differences between stock trading vs investing in shares are the amount of time involved and level of risk undertaken. Investing focuses on the long term and investors tend to adopt a buy and hold approach, known as position trading. The idea is to gradually build up wealth over a longer period of time, which is generated through buying and taking ownership of shares.

Investors will generally research a company's fundamentals before buying shares, which is commonly used when investing into rising companies during a specific period of time, such as water stocks and pharmaceutical stocks. They try to determine the wealth prospect of shares in the medium to long term. Investments are often held for a period of years, or longer. Market conditions may fluctuate over time, but this has less of an impact on long-term value investing.

Trading, on the other hand, focuses on the short term. It involves the frequent buying and selling of shares. The aim is to take advantage of quick price movements in the stock market to make a profit. Very often, traders will hold stocks for less than a day, which is a short-term strategy called day trading. Trading can have higher potential returns than investing.

However, it is also higher risk because there can be sudden, sharp price movements in the market. Traders generally tend to analyse a share’s current trend in the market using a range of technical analysis tools such as technical indicators. Numerous trading platforms these days offer technical analysis tools to help you refine your share trading strategy.

How to buy and sell shares

Shares are bought and sold on a network of global exchanges. For example, most UK shares are traded on the London Stock Exchange. US-listed shares are traded on the New York Stock Exchange. Only certain people can buy and sell shares on exchanges, so most people trade shares via a stock broker. View our article on stock market trading hours​ to familiarise yourself with all the major stock exchanges around the world.

How to trade shares online

  • If you want to trade shares in the UK, you’ll need to open a live account to speculate on price movements through spread bets and CFDs.
  • Once you’ve opened an account, you’ll need to deposit enough money to cover your trade before taking a position on the shares that you want to trade.

Example of buying and selling stock

If you think the price for a particular stock, say streaming stock​ Apple for instance, is about to rise, you can go long or buy. If the price goes up as you had predicted, you would make a profit. If the price moves against you and goes down you would make a loss.

You could also speculate on falling share prices. If the price for Apple shares will fall, for instance, you can take a short position or sell. If the price falls as you had anticipated, you would make a profit, if your prediction was incorrect and the price rises, you would net a loss.

How to buy stocks with leverage

Spread bets and CFDs are both leveraged products. This means that you are able to get greater exposure to the share market by putting down a smaller amount of capital to place your trade. Leveraged trading could potentially result in bigger profits. It carries greater risks as well, however, as you could lose all of your capital if your trade goes against you. The margin rates for stock trading start relatively low at around 20%, or at a leverage of 5:1, which is more risk adverse than the forex market, for example. Read more about forex vs stocks here.

You can also trade on the price movements of shares that have recently become public on the stock market through the traditional IPO process, or using a SPAC (special-purpose acquisition company)​. These shares are usually added to our platform on their opening day of trading.

If you own shares in a company you also have the right to receive dividends. These usually take the form of a cash payment. When a stock goes ex-dividend, the value of that stock effectively falls by the dividend amount. This means that if you hold a spread betting or CFD trading position in a company and that company announces a dividend, your account will be credited or debited on the day the stock goes ex-dividend.

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Share trading fees

There are some costs you should consider when buying and selling shares through an online broker. The main fees applicable to buying and selling shares are account fees and commissions. Online brokers will charge different account fees. For example, they may charge you a monthly, quarterly or annual account fee. Sometimes, fees may be waived if you make a minimum number of trades, or if your account is a certain size.

Typically, when you spread bet shares, an additional spread will be built into the price of the shares displayed on the trading platform. This will be applicable upon execution of any order. The additional spread is one of the costs associated with placing a spread bet on a share. When trading share CFDs, a commission will be charged upon execution of any order. Minimum commission charges may apply and can be charged at a flat rate or as a percentage. Read about our CFD commission rates​ here.

What is an investment portfolio?

An investment portfolio is a collection of assets held by an individual. Most portfolios are made up of shares, bonds, mutual funds and exchange-traded funds (ETFs)​. Generally, they will contain a mixture of different asset classes, including cash, real estate investment trusts​ and ‘hard’ assets such as gold.

The types of investments in a portfolio are usually chosen based on different risk-reward combinations. For example, low risk, low-yield investments and high risk, high-yield investments.

Different investments also have different types of income streams. These can include steady but fixed, or varied but with potential for growth. Investment professionals consider ‘diversification’ a key part of building a portfolio. This means having a range of different asset classes, as well as different types of risk-rewards and income streams. Investing in a range of asset classes in your portfolio helps to spread your risk.

Risk management in stock trading

The risks of share trading depend on your method of trading. If you are buying, holding or selling shares outright, then the most obvious risk is that the shares can depreciate in value. Small losses in value will often balance out over time, but it’s possible for share prices to crash, or for a company in which you own shares to go out of business. Stock market crashes are also possible. For example, in 2008, the FTSE 100 nearly halved in value in just a few weeks. Instances like this are generally related to the overall economic outlook.

What you invest in can also have an impact on your overall risk. It’s important to diversify your portfolio. For example, if you invested in the shares of three different energy companies, you are limiting yourself to one sector. If anything impacts on the value of that sector, it’s likely all your shares would be affected. Traders often prefer, therefore, to invest across different sectors to prevent this from happening. Established companies such as blue-chip stocks​ are also likely to be lower risk than new, unestablished start-ups, although this cannot be guaranteed.

If you are using derivative products such as spread bets or CFDs, then your risks will be slightly different. Spread bets and CFDs are leveraged products. This means you get greater market exposure with a smaller outlay of capital. However, profits and losses will both be based on the full value of any trade, so it is possible to lose all of your capital. You should read about our risk management​ tools before placing a trade.

Share trading account in the UK

Opening a UK share trading account is a simple and quick process. To start trading right away, open a live account here. You may want to familiarise yourself first with our online trading platform, which comes complete with technical tools, indicators, charts and graphs.

Share trading platform

You can trade over 8500 shares and exchange-traded funds on our online trading platform​, Next Generation. It has an abundance of market data, price charts and graphs, and financial reports from reputable sources all over the world, making it a favourable share trading platform. We also offer share basket trading​ on a number of stock clusters; click the link for more information.

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Summary: investing in shares

Share trading is the buying and selling of stock with the aim of making a profit. There are two ways that traders can approach share trading. Either you buy, hold and sell shares outright through a ‘nominee’ account. Or, you can trade shares using derivative products such as spread bets or CFDs. Inevitably, both of these methods involve risk. Ultimately, your investment goals will define your approach to trading shares. When share trading via spread betting or CFD trading you have the option to trade both sides of the market. See more on how to short stocks​ here.


How does share trading work?

Share trading works through investors buying and selling stocks on an exchange. Usually, if a stock is performing well, then investors may take a buy and hold approach, profiting from the uptrend in its share price. If the stock is seeing sharp swings in price, then investors may look to short sell. Learn more about stock trading strategies​.

Can you lose money when share trading?

The share market can be volatile at times and this increases your chance of losing money. Explore our risk-management guide​, which discusses strategies and tips for controlling risks when share trading.

Where are shares traded?

Usually, shares must be listed on a stock exchange in order to be traded. Some of the largest stock exchanges in the world include the New York Stock Exchange, Nasdaq and London Stock Exchange, which trade on different timeframes. Learn about stock market hours​.

Can I trade shares with leverage?

Using leverage, it’s possible to trade on the underlying price movements of shares via spread bets or CFDs. This allows traders to put down an initial deposit or margin, and trade on both sides of the market. Trading with leverage amplifies both profits and losses, as the trade is based on the full value. Read more about leverage in trading​.

How do I short stocks?

Short selling is a strategy that aims to profit from sudden price drops in share prices. Learn how to short stocks in the UK​ and take advantage of bear markets, along with the benefits and risks of short selling.