Skip to content

Spread bets and CFDs are complex instruments and come with a high risk of losing money rapidly due to leverage. 71% of retail investor accounts lose money when trading spread bets and CFDs with this provider. You should consider whether you understand how spread bets and CFDs work, and whether you can afford to take the high risk of losing your money.
Spread bets and CFDs are complex instruments and come with a high risk of losing money rapidly due to leverage. 71% of retail investor accounts lose money when trading spread bets and CFDs with this provider. You should consider whether you understand how spread bets and CFDs work, and whether you can afford to take the high risk of losing your money.

What are penny stocks?

Penny stocks are shares of companies that are traded for less than £1 in the UK or $5 in the US. Find out what a penny stock is and learn more about the risks and rewards associated with them.

Penny stocks Source: Bloomberg

What are penny stocks?

Penny stocks are common shares of smaller companies traded for less than £1 in the UK and below $5 in the US. The market cap on penny stock companies is below £100 million in the UK, and below $300 million in the US.

The general sentiment behind investors buying penny shares is that you bet on a small company that’ll grow over time. This adds an added element of risk, but some consider it to also have high rewards.

See the best performing UK penny shares

What are penny stocks
What are penny stocks

Are penny shares more volatile?

Penny shares are often more volatile than other stocks, because they belong to companies that are either very small or newly listed.

This means that they’re sensitive to market news and developments, and there’s low liquidity. On the other hand, this also means there could be more room to grow.

Since penny stocks trade at a lower price point, an incremental movement in their value could translate into a high percentage share price change quite easily.

So, because these shares tend to be more volatile, there’s a higher level of risk associated with buying or trading them. Always ensure you take steps to manage your risk when trading or investing in penny stocks.

Risks and rewards of penny shares

There can be substantial risk when trading or investing in penny stocks, which don’t entirely exist when taking a position on bigger companies. However, there are also potential rewards.

  • There’s a possibility that stocks could be undervalued (as they belong to smaller companies), which means more room for share price growth
  • You can get exposure to a large amount of shares at a relatively low cost
  • Higher volatility creates both traditional trading (buying) and short-selling opportunities
  • Penny stock companies don’t always have a proven record of success
  • Penny stock companies tend to be small and prone to bankruptcy
  • The time it takes for traders and investors to make profit could be longer when trading penny stocks compared to larger stocks
  • There can be a risk of potential price manipulation

How can you trade or invest in penny stocks?

  1. Learn more about penny stocks
  2. Decide whether to trade or invest
  3. Create an account or log into your existing account with us
  4. Take steps to manage your risk
  5. Open your position

With us, you can trade or invest in penny stocks. This means you can either speculate on the share price movements or own the shares outright.

If you want to trade penny stocks, you’ll do so using spread bets and CFDs. When using these derivative products, you can speculate on upward or downward share price movements – ie you can go long or short.

Plus, you’ll trade using leverage, which means you only have to commit a percentage of the trade value to open a position. The deposit you’ll use is called margin.

It’s important to note that leverage could increase your risk, as any profits and losses will be based on the full position size and not the margin used to open it.

If you want to own physical penny stocks, you’ll do so via our share dealing platform. With us, you can invest in shares from zero commission.1 You’ll need to commit the full value of your holding upfront and you’ll only make a profit if you sell the shares for more than the original buy price. When investing, your loss is limited to your initial outlay.

It’s important for traders and investors to do their due diligence on companies. In other words, they should do technical and fundamental analysis, and take steps to manage the possibility of losing their capital. This is called risk management.

Learn more about how to trade or invest in stocks, or buying shares with us

Penny shares and risk management

Because penny stocks are particularly volatile, you’ll need a good risk management strategy. This could include adding stops and limits to your position to lock in possible profits and limit any losses.

A stop order is a tool that sets the condition for a position to be closed when the market price moves below a certain point. So, if the market price moves towards a less favourable point, the stop will be triggered, and the position will be closed to mitigate further loss.

You can choose between a normal stop or a guaranteed stop. The latter will incur a fee if triggered, as it protects against any possible slippage, too.

You could also set a limit order, which will open a position (either buy or sell) at a price that is more favourable than the current market price. You can place a limit order to avoid monitoring the markets but still execute trades according to your preferred parameters.

How do penny stocks go public?

Penny stock companies that meet the basic requirements to list on an exchange will go public through an initial public offering (IPO) or by means of a SPAC.

An IPO is a lengthy process that includes audits, valuations and various registrations. The news of an IPO will often be released a few months before the planned listing – giving you some time to study the company’s financials. A SPAC is a ‘special purpose acquisition company’ – a publicly traded shell company that raises money to merge with a private company and take it public. In some cases, a company may skip the whole process by directly listing on the stock exchange.

You can use our IPO trading platform to spot the next company that needs to raise capital to increase profitability.

You can learn how to trade an IPO before you make the decision to put capital on the line. We have a list of upcoming IPOs that you can compare, and trade or invest in if you think it shows promise.

Penny stocks summed up

  • Penny stocks are shares of smaller companies that are traded for less than £1 in the UK or $5 in the US
  • Penny stocks tend to be volatile, due to low liquidity and little information known about the company
  • Traders and investors are attracted to penny stocks because they could offer growth opportunities
  • You can manage the risk involved in trading and investing penny stocks by doing fundamental and technical analysis before taking a position
  • You can trade penny stocks via spread betting or CFDs, or invest in them using our share dealing platform


1 Trade in your share dealing account three or more times in the previous month to qualify for our best commission rates. Please note published rates are valid up to £25,000 notional value. See our full list of share dealing charges and fees.

This information has been prepared by IG, a trading name of IG Markets Limited. In addition to the disclaimer below, the material on this page does not contain a record of our trading prices, or an offer of, or solicitation for, a transaction in any financial instrument. IG accepts no responsibility for any use that may be made of these comments and for any consequences that result. No representation or warranty is given as to the accuracy or completeness of this information. Consequently any person acting on it does so entirely at their own risk. Any research provided does not have regard to the specific investment objectives, financial situation and needs of any specific person who may receive it. It has not been prepared in accordance with legal requirements designed to promote the independence of investment research and as such is considered to be a marketing communication. Although we are not specifically constrained from dealing ahead of our recommendations we do not seek to take advantage of them before they are provided to our clients. See full non-independent research disclaimer and quarterly summary.

Explore the markets with our free course

Learn how shares work – and discover the wide range of markets you can spread bet on – with IG Academy's free ’introducing the financial markets’ course.

Put learning into action

Try out what you’ve learned in this shares strategy article risk-free in your demo account.

Ready to trade shares?

Put the lessons in this article to use in a live account – upgrading is quick and easy.

  • Trade on over 13,000+ popular global stocks
  • Protect your capital with risk management tools
  • React to breaking news with out-of-hours trading on 70 key US stocks

Inspired to trade?

Put your new knowledge into practice. Log in to your account now.

What is the number one mistake traders make?

We reveal the top potential pitfall and how to avoid it. Discover how to increase your chances of trading success, with data gleaned from over 100,00 IG accounts.

For more info on how we might use your data, see our privacy notice and access policy and privacy webpage.

You might be interested in…

Find out what charges your trades could incur with our transparent fee structure.

Discover why so many clients choose us, and what makes us a world-leading provider of spread betting and CFDs.

Stay on top of upcoming market-moving events with our customisable economic calendar.