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2008-02-06 20:56:58 - By

What is a Stock's "Float" And Why is it Important?

company stock float - stock certificates floating in the air What exactly does it mean when people refer to a company's "float", and why might the size of a company's float have a direct impact on how the stock trades?

First off, what exactly is a "float"?

To understand what a float is, we first need to explain what "shares outstanding" mean. "Shares outstanding" are the total number of shares that a publicly traded company has. These include shares owned by insiders and large institutions, plus "restricted" shares and the float.

The float represents the shares of the company that are "freely" tradable. Meaning, the shares other than those held by institutions or other owners totalling more than 5% of the company, restricted shares and insider holdings.

Let's take a look at a real world example. Simtek Corp. (SMTK) currently has 16.51 million shares outstanding. If you multiply the number of shares outstanding by the current share price ($2.81), you are left with a total "market cap" of $46.40 million dollars.

Now, Simtek has 10.31 million shares in its float. This means that after backing out shares held by owners that total more than 5% of all shares, restricted shares and insider holdings, we are left with 10.31 million shares. This is the float.

Now why is the "float" important?

The smaller a float, the more volatile a stock can become. If a stock has one million shares in its float and announces really good news, the share price will soar due to their being hardly any shares in the float. If there are hardly any shares in the float, this means that shares are harder to buy and the price to buy shares will go up.

If a stock has a really big float, this would mean that the stock is prone to less explosive moves. A stock with a float of 100 million shares won't rise 100% in one day, but a stock with a float of 1 million shares could.

Filed under: Stock Market Education | General Knowledge

21 COMMENTS - What Say You?

Comment by avatar_iit on July 22, 2009 @ 9:09 am

very neatly explained..gives a very clear picture from very basic leves...thanks dm


Comment by Henry on September 17, 2009 @ 2:28 am

I would like some book references on stock float application in trading.


Comment by Matt Penn on November 25, 2009 @ 11:38 am

Thanks for this very clear explanation!


Comment by john on September 03, 2010 @ 7:44 pm

Very well explains volatility. So we can reduce some risk with a company with a large float and possibly make it rich with a company with a small float. Maybe


Comment by Jake on September 12, 2010 @ 7:17 pm

Thanks, clear explanation. Henry, buy a book on the subject. I'm sure there are many.


Comment by Aravind VS on January 10, 2011 @ 3:07 am

Good one. How this will affect in day trading we need to see.


Comment by yan on January 19, 2011 @ 3:46 pm

Thanks dm. where or how can we get the shares of the float?


Comment by Al on March 30, 2011 @ 8:10 am

Helps explain NLY moves...


Comment by Ping on September 12, 2011 @ 3:00 pm

Thanks for the clear explaination!


Comment by Matt on November 26, 2011 @ 4:07 pm

Can you answer the question of WHY the stock price goes up faster due to low float. You mentioned shares Are harder to get with low float but why would that alone make prices soar? Great post btw. Exactly what I was looking for today!


Comment by WiLD Bill on January 06, 2012 @ 6:34 pm

The number of shares available is probably less important than the valeu of the shares available, so long as the share price is at a reasonable level to allow a diverse range of investors and position sizes.


Comment by FS on January 26, 2012 @ 1:19 pm

@Matt - fundamental laws of economics: supply and demand. The lower the supply, the higher the demand, the higher the cost/price.


Comment by mike on March 09, 2012 @ 6:50 pm

CNAM is 15 million and steel mills all over china, going up,,,


Comment by MadBrewer on May 11, 2012 @ 11:43 pm

A low float means less shares to go around.
If there's only 100 of "something" & 1000 people want it, guess what happens to the price?



Comment by Denise on July 26, 2012 @ 7:00 pm

But I've also seen a stock with a low shares drop their price as soon as a sell went through, hence the risk of low share stocks.


Comment by Bob Kutz on September 13, 2012 @ 10:57 am


In your definition on this page, you state; "The float represents the shares of the company that are "freely" tradable. Meaning, the shares other than those held by institutions or other owners totalling more than 5% of the company, restricted shares and insider holdings."

Yet, on your page defining float you state; "To arrive at the number of shares that make up the "float" in a company, we use this simple calculation: Shares Outstanding Minus Restricted Shares = Float"

These two definitions seems at odds with one another; namely; are institutional and insider shares part of the float? Are they considered 'restricted shares'? To my understanding Institutional and Insider shares are not restricted, though restricted may be included in insider shares.

If you could add some clarity to my understanding I would greatly appreciate it.


Comment by Tim Okeke on October 16, 2012 @ 11:06 am

What is the optimum percentage of the shares outstanding should the "Float" be for trhe purposes of deciding whether to purchase a stock or not? You did not adress this important issue.


Comment by Don Kush on January 19, 2013 @ 8:14 pm

How does 'short sells' as related to float affect the share price. Where does one find the float of a company?


Comment by Jenny on February 01, 2013 @ 6:00 am

Is Very well explained and you reminded my Class Teacher
Once again thank You


Comment by Sigfred on February 18, 2013 @ 2:43 pm

If a company is to delist from stock exchange due to failure to meet the minimum float, should this worries the public shareholders resulting to terminating of investment?


Comment by DaytonaDan on September 10, 2014 @ 5:42 pm

There are some ignorant questions here, the explanation was quite simple and informative for the average person buying and selling stocks.


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