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Originally established in 1913 as the National Quotation Bureau, the company now publishes quotes online for the over-the-counter (OTC) securities market under the name OTC Markets Group.

This firm currently provides liquidity and price information for more than 10,000 OTC stocks listed in 3 different markets known as OTCQB, OTCQX and Pink, using an inter-dealer quotation system called OTC Link. Learning about pink sheets and expanding your horizons, then, will open you up to more than just the NASDAQ and NYSE. While a pink stock might not change your life, it could help you diversify your portfolio or even catch wind of a stock that has not yet IPOed.

What are Pink Market Stocks?

The phrase “pink market stocks” (pink sheets) refers to equities listed on OTC Markets Group’s OTCQB, OTCQX and Pink inter-dealer quotation systems. These stocks trade in the OTC market and many of them do not meet the listing requirements of major U.S. stock exchanges.

Many pink market-listed stocks are considered penny stocks, which trade at prices under $5 per share, and which have their own SEC designation and rules.

Penny stocks are considered speculative investments by the SEC, but they can trade on securities exchanges — including foreign securities exchanges — if they meet the stock exchange’s listing requirements.    

The OTC-Link markets are divided into 3 different tiers with their own requirements. OTCQB stocks are only subject to the SEC reporting standards for listing, while the OTCQX stocks go through a qualitative review by the OTC Markets Group and include both transnational and domestic companies.

Both the OTCQB and OTCQX stock issuers are subject to the reporting requirements of the Securities and Exchange Act of 1934. Therefore, a pink stock is not an off-brand risk. You’re simply investing in companies that have not debuted on exchanges like the NYSE or NASDAQ.

In contrast, stocks in the Pink market, which include many foreign stocks, have no financial standards or reporting requirements and do not need to be registered with the SEC. The companies in this tier are further classified by the timeliness of their reporting to investors and have limited or no public disclosure of their financials.

The Pink market is generally the riskiest to trade of the 3.

Pros and Cons

The pink markets have their benefits and drawbacks. Understanding how the stock market works is just one step in the process. Pink sheets are different from “mainstream” stocks, and you must know what you’re buying. On the one hand, there is massive potential. On the other hand, you could buy into a stock that is destined to underperform.

Opportunity

Many small growth companies’ stock begins trading on the OTC-Link markets. Some of these companies go on to later get listed on a major exchange after they have expanded and grown to the point of being worthy of a higher stock price.

One example is Concur Technologies, which traded as low as $0.31 per share in 2001, but currently trades over $125 per share.

Value

You’ll eventually find undervalued stocks that should be trading for much higher prices if you have the patience to research and analyze pink market-listed companies.

For example, you might discover companies that have been through rough times and have seen their stock price fall below $5 per share despite the fact that they are sitting on net assets worth more than the company’s stock valuation.

Return

Return on investment (ROI) is the percentage return you could see on a stock you purchased. For example, if you invested $1,000 for 10,000 shares at $0.10, you would have an investment worth $10,000,000 if the stock rallied to $10 per share.

While this ROI may seem unrealistic, such returns occur more often than you would expect with pink market stocks. Returns of this magnitude are rarely seen in other markets.  

Risk

Penny stock investors should be prepared for the possibility that you may lose your whole investment (or an amount in excess of your investment if they purchased penny stocks on margin).

Pink market stocks are among the riskiest speculative investments around, so make sure you know what you’re buying when you decide to invest and only use risk capital you can afford to lose.

Research these companies as much as you possibly can. Even if an investment is legitimate, that does not guarantee success. While you should not invest money you aren’t prepared to lose, you should never invest money in something you don’t understand.

Lack of Liquidity

Since the pink market contains stocks of companies of questionable profitability that often provide only a limited supply of stock, you may find that some pink market stocks lack liquidity.

The problem with low liquidity is that you could move the market significantly with a large order, or you may have trouble liquidating a long position if all the bids disappear once you start selling.

Volatility

A lack of liquidity usually means increased volatility. Pink market stocks can be extremely volatile depending on the market and the amount of stock the company has outstanding.

High volatility combined with low liquidity could make it a nightmare to manage a substantial pink stock position using traditional methods.  

Scams

The illiquid nature of pink market stocks and the lack of oversight for the majority of companies listed on the OTC-Link markets make it a prime location for scammers and “pump-and-dump” schemes.

When making any OTC-Link market transaction, you might want to double-check the recent price history and your research before committing any money to what seems to be the penny stock trade of the day.  

How to Buy Pink Market Stocks

Pink market stocks present different challenges than trading normally listed stocks, so follow these steps carefully to learn how to buy them.

Step 1: Research the Market

OTC Markets Stock Screener page
OTC Markets Stock Screener page. Source: www.otcmarkets.com

When you start trading any market, you should do your research and have a good idea of what you’ll be trading, so pink market stocks are no exception. You can first look over the OTC Markets website to get a feel for the type of businesses that have their stocks trading on the different OTC-Link markets.

That website also features market activity, news, corporate services, a link to its Alternative Trading Services platform and an extensive learning section to help you get familiar with both the market and issuing sides of the OTC stock business.

Another important feature on the OTC Markets website is its stock screener page.

This screener page lets you search more than 10,000 listed stocks by market, security type, country and industry. You can also input growth parameters for stocks, such as minimum and maximum price and percent price change over times frames, including a day, 5 days, a month, 13 weeks and a year.

Market hours during which you can trade pink market stocks run from 6 a.m. until 5 p.m. EST.

Step 2: Make a Plan

Once you get an idea and feel for the pink market stock market, you can then proceed to work out a trading or investment plan. Remember, you’ll be involved in one of the most speculative stock markets in the world.

You should plan on using limit orders and stop-loss orders to manage your risk, though keep in mind that the volatility and lack of liquidity in these markets can turn normal risk management practices into quite a challenge.

Trading in any market without a plan is like navigating a ship without a compass, so you’ll need to structure your trading activities or you’ll probably succumb to your emotions. Emotions can really make trading difficult since most people don’t know how to stay on an even keel when making and losing money, although the “losing money” part tends to cause the most problems.

If you trade without a plan, you’re basically just gambling. Trading involves researching the market to find the trades with the highest likelihood of turning a profit. You will most likely lose money if you begin by buying and selling penny stocks without a plan, just like most casual gamblers do at casinos.

Step 3: Pick a Broker

After you have developed a structured approach to trading pink market stocks, preferably with sound money and risk management components, you can then start looking for the best online broker for your needs so you can start trading your plan.

A competent broker can make a big difference in your overall trading results. Remember, how you trade stocks is just as important as where you trade, so make sure you pick the right broker. Some of our top choices for trading pink market stocks appear below.

Best For
Global and Active Traders
Best For
  • Access to foreign markets
  • Detailed mobile app that makes trading simple
  • Wide range of available account types and tradable assets

Interactive Brokers

One of the best overall brokers for trading pink market stocks is Interactive Brokers.

Interactive Brokers offers commissions as low as Interactive Brokers offers commissions as low as Interactive Brokers offers commissions as low as $0.0005 per share with a $1 minimum and a maximum of 0.5% of the value of the trade.0005 per share with a minimum and a maximum of 0.5% of the value of the trade.0005 per share with a minimum and a maximum of 0.5% of the value of the trade.

In addition, Interactive Brokers’ Trader Workstation (TWS) trading platform facilitates trading in any major market.

It has many features experienced traders can appreciate.

Interactive Brokers can also give you some of the lowest margin rates in the business.

They also have excellent customer service and research resources.

In addition, you have a choice of several web-based or desktop trading platforms, as well as a mobile option for Android and iOS.

Read Benzinga’s full Interactive Brokers Review

Best For
Desktop Trading
Best For
  • Active traders
  • Derivatives traders
  • Retirement savers

E*TRADE

E*TRADE has a great trading platform that caters to both experienced and new traders.

While the $6.95 per trade commission may seem high, E*TRADE makes up for it in services. Beginning traders can find a wealth of educational resources, while frequent traders can get a discounted $4.95 per trade rate.

E*TRADE lets you choose your account type and offers “pre-built” and managed portfolios as well as the E*TRADE Bank and stock plans.

One of the reasons E-Trade made our list is the ease of use of its platform and intuitive interface. Other perks at E*TRADE include over 250 commission-free ETFs and 4,400 no-transaction-fee mutual funds.

Read Benzinga’s full E*TRADE Review

Best For
Options Trading
Best For
  • Novice investors
  • Retirement savers
  • Day traders

TD Ameritrade

TD Ameritrade offers trading in pink market stocks, and you can open an account for free, but if you want to open a margin account, you’ll need to deposit a minimum of $2,000.

The broker’s 3 platforms include a web-based platform, a mobile option and the thinkorswim platform for options.

In addition to stocks, you can trade options, ETFs, mutual funds, futures, forex, bonds, cryptocurrencies and annuities. If you qualify, you can also participate in stock initial public offerings.

TD Ameritrade commissions for stock trades are $6.95 for trades made online.

The cost is $35.99 for Interactive Voice Response (IVR) orders and if you have a broker assist you with the trade, the cost is $44.99.

Read Benzinga’s full TD Ameritrade Review

Step 4: Test your Plan and Start Trading

The next step is testing your trading plan. Ideally, you should find a broker that offers a demo account so you can get an idea of how the market trades and evaluate your trading plan. Testing a successful plan gives you confidence, which is a key ingredient of a successful trading mindset.

Once you’re satisfied that your trading plan is profitable, you can proceed to fund a trading account and start trading. Pink market stocks can be extremely volatile, so be careful to avoid overtrading to keep from paying extra commission costs.

Are Pink Market Stocks for You?

Pink market stocks can be cheap and can move up in the blink of an eye or they can evaporate and lose the little value they had when you bought them.

Very few financial markets have as much risk or can match the returns that you can get from trading pink market stocks. If you have a lot of patience and a strong stomach for risk and you know how to research companies to find value where others might have missed it, then trading a pink stock might be for you.

Want to learn more about stock trading, pink sheets and financial instruments? Check out Benzinga’s guides to the best online brokers, how to trade penny stocks and the best penny stock brokers.

Q

What are the times I can buy pink market stocks?

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What are the times I can buy pink market stocks?
asked
A
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The markets are open from 9:30 a.m. to 4 a.m. EST Monday through Friday. You can start buying them in premarket trading at 6 a.m. EST and after-hours trading until 5 p.m. EST.

answered
Q

What are pink market stocks?

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What are pink market stocks?
asked
A
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Pink market stocks are companies that list on the OTC Bulletin Board. They don’t meet the listing requirements of the stock exchanges.

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