How Can I Use Market Capitalization to Evaluate a Stock? (2024)

Understanding Market Capitalization

Market capitalization (or "market cap") is a useful figure to examine when trying to understand a company's structure and profitability, and therefore a stock's value. Market capitalization can be used to determine a variety of key performance metrics, including price-to-earnings and price-to-free-cash flow.

Market capitalization refers to the total dollar market value of a company's outstanding shares. It is thus calculated by multiplying the total number of a company's shares by the current market price of one share. The investment community uses this figure to determine a company's size, and basically how the stock market is valuing the company.

Market cap is useful in categorizing stocks based on their absolute size (e.g., big-cap vs. small-cap stocks), and it is also used as an input in various financial ratios and other metrics. Read on to see how market cap is used to evaluate stocks.

Key Takeaways

  • Market capitalization is the total dollar value of all of a company's outstanding shares.
  • It's determined by multiplying the company's stock price by its total number of outstanding shares.
  • Investors can use market capitalization to assess the value of a stock they are considering buying.
  • Market capitalization is a key measure of profitability that is also used in equations to determine price-to-earnings and other significant metrics.
  • Market cap is generally broken down as micro-cap, small-cap, mid-cap, large-cap, and ultra or mega-cap.

Performance Metrics That Use Market Cap

There are a number of popular valuation ratios that include market capitalization that investors should look at when considering buying a stock. These ratios include:

  • Price-to-earnings(P/E) ratio: Calculated by dividing market cap by 12-month net income; can reference trailing earnings or projected future earnings
  • Price-to-free-cash-flowratio: Calculated by dividing market cap by 12-month free cash flow (derived by subtracting capital expenses from cash flow from operations; can also use historical or projected returns
  • Price-to-book (P/B) value: Calculated by dividing market cap by the company's total shareholder equity (i.e., the difference between its total assets and liabilities).
  • Enterprise-value-to-EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization): Functions similarly to the price-to-earnings ratio; enterprise value is calculated by totaling the market value of common and preferred equity, minority interest, and net debt.EBITDA measures operational returns in the short term.

Generally, large-cap stocks experience slower growth and are more likely to pay dividends than faster-growing, small- or mid-cap stocks.

Market Cap Types

There is no official barrier for different categories of stocks based on size, but large (big) capsare often companies with market caps over $10 billion, whilemid-capsare $2 billion to $10 billion, and small capsare under $2 billion. There are further categories that investors will sometimes consider, such as micro caps, referring to small-cap stocks that are under $250 million, and ultra or mega-cap stocks, which are large caps that are over $50 billion.

Market capitalization is used to set investor expectations and shape investment strategy. Different types of investment strategies focus on the various market cap groups, and different valuation methods are applied depending on company size. Very large market caps are usually associated with mature, low-growth companies that pay dividends. Small caps are often growth companies with higher-risk profiles and generally do not pay dividends.

$2.9 trillion

Apple Inc. (AAPL) has the largest market cap of any company in the world. As of Q2 2022, it is worth nearly $3 trillion. It is followed by Microsoft (MSFT) and Alphabet (GOOG) at around $2.3 trillion apiece.

Why Are Stocks Measured by Market Capitalization?

Market cap is a useful measure of a company's overall value, as the market sees it. Because different corporations have different amounts of shares available for trading, the market cap produces an apples-to-apples comparison regardless of the actual price of a company's stock.

Market cap is used to categorize stocks since certain investors look for attributes that accompany companies of different sizes. For instance, large caps tend to be more mature and stable companies that have already experienced a great deal of growth and that capture a large market share. Small caps, on the other hand, tend to be more volatile but may also be potential growth opportunities.

It is best to compare stocks of like market cap to one another. For instance, a small-cap growth stock should not be compared with a large-cap value stock.

How Does Market Cap Affect Stock Price?

Market cap does not influence share prices. It works the other way around. Market cap is arrived at by multiplying the share price by the number of shares outstanding. So when a stock's price rises, so too does its market cap.

Is There Such a Thing as a Good Market Cap for a Stock?

This is all a matter of perspective. Sometimes small-cap stocks outperform larger stocks, but they also tend to be riskier or more volatile investments. Once a company grows very large, it may no longer be as nimble or able to take advantage of new growth opportunities. At the same time, large caps tend to be stable investments and may be more likely to pay dividends to shareholders.

How Can I Use Market Capitalization to Evaluate a Stock? (2024)


How Can I Use Market Capitalization to Evaluate a Stock? ›

Market capitalization is the total dollar value of all of a company's outstanding shares. It's determined by multiplying the company's stock price by its total number of outstanding shares. Investors can use market capitalization to assess the value of a stock they are considering buying.

What does market cap tell you about a stock? ›

Market capitalization — or market cap — measures a company's value based on the number of stock shares it has issued and the price at which investors are willing to buy them.

How do you use market cap to value a company? ›

Market capitalization shows how much a company is worth as determined by the total market value of all outstanding shares. To calculate a company's market cap, multiply the number of outstanding shares by the current market value of one share.

How to calculate price based on market cap? ›

Key Takeaways

Market cap is calculated by taking the current share price and multiplying it by the number of shares outstanding. For example, a company with 50 million shares and a stock price of $100 per share would have a market cap of $5 billion.

Is market capitalization the same as valuation? ›

Market capitalization is essentially a synonym for the market value of equity. A company's market cap is a single incontrovertible figure because it's the number of outstanding shares multiplied by the price of a share. Market valuations can vary depending on the exact metrics and multiples that an analyst uses.

Is market cap a good indicator? ›

A company's outstanding shares are a key element in fundamental analysis, illustrating the broadest number of a company's shares subject to daily valuation. That's why market cap is a good barometer to use to determine how a firm ranks against other competitors at any moment.

What is the relationship between market cap and stock price? ›

Market cap does not affect the stock prices, it works the other way around. Market cap is calculated by multiplying the share price by the total number of shares outstanding. When the price of a stock rises, so too does its market cap.

Does market cap mean equity value? ›

Often used interchangeably with the term “equity value,” a company's market capitalization measures the value of its common equity as of the latest market close. The market cap, short-form for “market capitalization”, is the total value of a company's common shares outstanding to its equity holders.

Why is market cap so important? ›

Generally, market capitalization corresponds to a company's stage in its business development. Typically, investments in large-cap stocks are considered more conservative than investments in small-cap or midcap stocks, potentially posing less risk in exchange for less aggressive growth potential.

What is the capitalization method of valuation? ›

Capitalization is any method used to convert an income stream into value. There are two primary income capitalization methods: direct capitalization and yield capitalization. (A capitalization rate is any rate used to convert an estimate of future income into an estimate of market value.

What is the capitalization approach to valuation? ›

The basis of the income capitalization approach is that the investor uses today's money for future income. This means the investor needs to understand the concept of present value, which is the amount today plus appropriate interest that the investment will be worth in the future.

Does market cap represent the value of a company? ›

What Is Market Capitalization? Market cap represents the market value of a company based on its current share price and the total number of its outstanding shares. Market cap provides a convenient way to track and compare publicly traded companies based on their valuation.

Is a small market cap good or bad? ›

TIME Stamp: Small-cap stocks have both growth potential and higher risk. Small-cap stocks offer significant growth potential—something large-cap companies can't because their days of aggressive growth are generally behind them. However, the higher the potential reward, the higher the risk.


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