What is share market trading and how does it work?

A dummies guide to investing in the stock market.

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When you trade shares, you’re buying and selling a portion of a company with other traders. These trades occur over a digital marketplace known as the stock market or stock exchange. In Australia, we have the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX), and in the United States, there’s the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) and the NASDAQ.

Learn more about share market trading in this guide.span

Share Trading Account Offer

Superhero share trading

AUD 5

Standard brokerage - Australian shares

Share Trading Account Offer

Pay $0 brokerage to trade US stocks and all ETFs and just $5 for Australian shares.

  • $0 brokerage fee for US stock trading
  • $0 brokerage for all ETF purchases
  • Low $5 flat rate for ASX shares
  • No account fees or inactivity fee
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Important: Share trading carries risk of capital loss.

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What is stock trading?

When you trade stocks, you're essentially buying and selling the underlying asset of a company with the goal of making a profit. Each share has a price and it is determined by the supply and demand of the company's shares in the market, based on its present or predicted future performance.

Usually, when a company is performing well, more investors will want to buy its shares and its share price goes up. Conversely, if a company is underperforming and failing to deliver good profits, shareholders may decide to sell their shares.

What is the stock market?

Also called a stock exchange, a stock market is where investors trade shares in companies. Australia is home to a number of exchanges. Stocks in the biggest companies in Australia are traded on the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) however there are two smaller exchanges known as the CHI-X and the National Stock Exchange of Australia (NSX).

Some of the biggest overseas exchanges include the London Stock Exchange, the NASDAQ, the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), the Japan Exchange Group and the Shanghai Stock Exchange. These can be accessed from Australia by using an international stock broker.

How does online share trading work?

Although there are physical stock exchanges, shares are purchased and sold online. To trade shares, you need a stock broker to act as an intermediary to the stock exchange.

A broker can be a full-service broker or an online broker. As well as place trades on your behalf, a full-service broker can give you advice about which shares to trade. An online broker is an online software platform which lets you execute trades yourself.

Online brokers are a low-cost option compared to full-service brokers. If you don’t want to go down the path of using a full-service broker, you can use share trading software to help you learn about which shares to trade, in addition to an online share trading platform to make trades.

Compare share trading accounts below

Name Product Standard brokerage fee Inactivity fee Markets International
Superhero share trading
$5
No
ASX shares, US shares
Yes
Australia’s lowest-cost broker for ASX shares and ETFs.
Pay zero brokerage on US stocks and all ETFs and just $5 (flat fee) to trade Australian shares from your mobile or desktop.
eToro (global stocks)
US$0
US$10 per month if there’s been no login for 12 months
Global shares, US shares, ETFs
Yes
Zero brokerage share trading on US, Hong Kong and European stocks with trades as low as $50.
Note: This broker offers CFDs which are volatile investment products and most clients lose money trading CFDs with this provider.
Join the world’s biggest social trading network when you trade stocks, commodities and currencies from the one account.
IG Share Trading
$8
$50 per quarter if you make fewer than three trades in that period
ASX shares, Global shares
Yes
$0 brokerage for US and global shares plus get an active trader discount of $5 commission on Australian shares.
Enjoy some of the lowest brokerage fees on the market when trading Australian shares, international shares, plus get access to 24-hour customer support.
Saxo Capital Markets (Classic account)
$5
No
ASX shares, Global shares, Forex, CFDs, Margin trading, Options trading, ETFs
Yes
Access 19,000+ stocks on 40+ exchanges worldwide
Low fees for Australian and global share trading, no inactivity fees, low currency conversion fee and optimised for mobile.
ThinkMarkets Share Trading
$8
No
ASX shares
No
Limited-time offer: Get 10 free ASX trades ($0 brokerage) when you open a share trading account with ThinkMarkets(T&Cs apply).$8 flat fee brokerage for CHESS Sponsored ASX stocks (HIN ownership), plus free live stock price data on an easy to use mobile app.
HSBC Online Share Trading
$19.95
No
ASX shares, mFunds, ETFs, Bonds
No
Limited time offer: Get up to $100 in brokerage rebates on your first 5 trades when you sign up to a HSBC Online Share Trading account (T&Cs apply). Make trades online with brokerage fees starting from just $19.95 with an HSBC Online Share Trading account. Plus gain access to complimentary expert research, trading ideas and tools.
Bell Direct Share Trading
$15
No
ASX shares, mFunds, ETFs
No
Invest in Australian shares, options and managed funds from the one account with no inactivity fee.
Bell Direct offers a one-second placement guarantee on market-to-limit ASX orders or your trade is free, plus enjoy extensive free research reports from top financial experts.
CMC Markets Invest
$11
No
ASX shares, Global shares, mFunds, ETFs
Yes
$0 brokerage on global shares including US, UK and Japan markets.
Trade up to 9,000 products, including shares, ETFs and managed funds, plus access up to 15 major global and Australian stock exchanges.
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Important: Share trading can be financially risky and the value of your investment can go down as well as up. Standard brokerage is the cost to purchase $1,000 or less of equities without any qualifications or special eligibility. Where both CHESS sponsored and custodian shares are offered, we display the cheapest option.

How can you make a profit from share trading?

There are three ways to make money from share trading: capital growth, dividends and tax concessions.

Capital growth

This is the most common way to make money from share trading. This is simply where you sell shares for more than you paid and get a profit.

Dividends

This is when the directors of a company chooses to pay company profits to shareholders. Dividend payments are based on the number of shares you own. These types of shares are called income shares. Not all companies pay dividends, and directors can reinvest profits to grow the company rather than pay a dividend. These types of shares are called growth shares.

Tax benefits

A share can be fully franked. This is a term to describe when a company has already paid tax on your dividends. You can use franking credits to reduce the tax you pay on other income.

What are the different types of shares?

You can trade these types of investments using online share trading platforms or through a broker.

Australian securities

This type of stock is publicly listed on the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) or the National Stock Exchange of Australia (NSX). Shares in the top 200 Australian companies are traded on the S&P ASX 200.

International securities

You can also trade on overseas markets. You can trade shares in some of the biggest companies in the world from Europe, Asia, the U.S and London.

Managed funds

Managed funds and exchange traded funds (funds that are listed on a stock exchange) are investment tools you can use to access multiple assets, including shares, property, commodities and derivatives.

What are the benefits of share trading?

Share trading can make you money in the short term and the long term, plus they present tax benefits for investors.

    • Liquidity. Shares are a liquid investment. You get your money two days after you make a trade.
    • Capital growth. Shares have proven to be a solid investment for long-term capital growth.
    • Tax. You may be eligible to receive a discount on any capital gains tax if you’ve held the shares for more than 12 months.
    • Shareholder rights. When you become a shareholder, you can vote on company decisions and attend annual general meetings (AGMs).

Compare share trading accounts

What are the risks of share trading?

Share trading is a way to make money. Generally speaking, the greater the potential gains, the greater the risk – share prices can rise and fall quickly.

  • Volatility risk. Shares can be a volatile asset. The price can rise and fall quickly depending on a number of things such as good or bad company performance, company announcements and performance of the market.
  • Timing risk. The share market moves in cycles. Buying shares in a bull market is no guarantee of future performance.
  • Government risk. Laws can change and this can impact your share price and investment strategy.
  • Overseas risk. Investing in international shares exposes you to risk from currency fluctuations and foreign governments.

Share trading jargon lookup

  • Blue chip. Companies that have a proven record of growth, for example Commonwealth Bank, BHP Billiton and Telstra, are blue-chip shares.
  • IPO. An initial public Offering is when a company floats on the stock exchange and sells shares to the public for the first time.
  • Income shares. Companies that pay a dividend to shareholders.
  • Growth shares. Companies that reinvest profits for long-term growth.
  • Capital growth. When an asset increases in value over time.
  • Rights issues. When a company makes shares available to existing shareholders at a discounted rate. Existing shareholders are not obligated to purchase shares under a rights issue and can sell the right to purchase discounted shares.
  • Settlement date. The date when the person who has made a trade purchasing shares must make a payment.
  • Sectors. A sector is a group of similar companies. For example, the resources sector is made up of mining and commodities shares.
  • Bull market. When the entire stock market is growing.
  • Bear market. When the value of the stock market is falling.
  • Day trading. A share-trading strategy where shares are purchased and sold in the same day for short-term capital gains.
  • Market capitalisation. The number of shares a company has issued multiplied by the price. This is a way of calculating the size of a publicly-listed company.

Ready to trade? Compare share trading accounts


How the stock market works


Disclaimer: This information should not be interpreted as an endorsement of futures, stocks, ETFs, CFDs, options or any specific provider, service or offering. It should not be relied upon as investment advice or construed as providing recommendations of any kind. Futures, stocks, ETFs and options trading involves substantial risk of loss and therefore are not appropriate for all investors. Trading CFDs and forex on leverage comes with a higher risk of losing money rapidly. Past performance is not an indication of future results. Consider your own circumstances, and obtain your own advice, before making any trades.

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