St. Patrick's Day Special: Is Investing Just "Lucky"?

A very HAPPY SAINT PATRICK'S DAY to all readers! If you're Irish (or not) I wish you all the luck in the world today. However, when it comes to the stock market, are things really actually just pure "luck"?

Absolutely not!

While I'm sure it has been done, I definitely don't condone the stock picking process whereby you pin up the equities page of the Wall Street Journal on the wall and then throw darts and buy whichever lucky names you hit. This is not investing, this is just being stupid. However, this is how some brokers describe the unassisted stock-picking process to their clients - and this is just not correct. It does carry slightly more risk to invest on your own, but that should not discourage you from attempting to evaluate stocks of companies that are already very well-known to you.

As an initial preview of things to come, here are 7 main factors that can be used to evaluate a stock quickly to determine if it is worth buying. Not all of these factors need to be met for purchase, but over time you'll get a sense for the importance of one factor over another. All of this data can be looked-up on Yahoo Finance, which is free and easy to use for all investors. There are obviously many factors that go into the proper valuation of a stock – whole books have been written – however there are seven key things to consider when trading the shares of a company.

As an example below, I use a company most everyone knows: Microsoft (MSFT). Analyst Estimates can be found in the "analyst estimates" tab on the left menu when you search for a security on Yahoo Finance. 

1. Volume – on days when headlines are light, but the volume of shares is larger than the average trading volume, some news might be brewing (good news = higher, bad = lower). Sometimes on days when the market is trading with a lot of volatility, this will cause all stocks to trade with higher-than-average volumes. 

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