Categorizing stock market investments into income, growth & value stock

By Riya Jain & Priya Chetty on April 15, 2020

The stock market is crucial to the economic performance of a country. Apart from being a source of business capital, investment, and government funds, stock markets play a role in personal wealth too. Stock market investments not only act as a source of income and retirement savings but also help beat inflation in the country. The figure below summarises the different advantages of stock market investment for the economy and investors.

Benefits of investing in the stock market
Figure 1: Benefits of investing in the stock market

However, apart from these advantages, stock market investment suffers from shortcomings. Due to the availability of different stocks and companies, investors face difficulty in identifying the right stock to invest in (Green, 2015; Mishra, 2018; Shah, Isah, & Zulkernine, 2019). The previous article summarised three main types of stocks:

  1. income,
  2. growth and,
  3. value.

The aim of this article is to review the parameters using which stocks are classified into these categories.

The rationale behind the categorization of stocks

The choice of the optimal stock depends on an investor’s tolerance for risk and future needs. A risk-averse investor who is sensitive to stock market volatility prefers to opt for a safe source of income by choosing income stocks. However, an investor who wants to earn more at the cost of higher risk prefers to invest in growth stocks. Growth stocks do not pay high dividends and are highly sensitive to market fluctuations and financial downturns. But the possibility of high capital gain appeals to some investors. Lastly, value stocks are for investors expecting long-term returns with less risk. Thus, value stock investors opt for companies that are undervalued but have a tremendous potential to grow (Thune, 2020; Treadwell, 2018).  

Differentiation of stocks into income, growth and value categories

There are many studies elaborating on methods to classify stocks. Akinde, Peter, & Ikpefan, (2019) stated that financial measures like price-to-earnings ratio, earnings per share, return on assets, capital gain, dividend yield, and opportunity cost help in identifying the nature of stock. Cordeiro & Machado, (2013) empirically analyzed the Brazil stock exchange and stated that the most common ratios which differentiate between growth and value stocks are book to market, price to cash flow, and price to earnings. Therefore the variables which help in categorizing the stocks into income, growth and value stocks are:

  • Price-to-earnings ratio
  • Price to book value ratio
  • Dividend yield ratio
  • Beta.

Income stocks

Income stocks are ones which regularly yield dividends and can even grow in the yield after adjusting dividends for inflation (Groww, 2020). Income stocks are less volatile as compared to other stocks in the market and even provide the highest yield compared to the average market yield (Chen, 2019). Thus, stocks with a low beta value (less than 1) and high dividend yield are income stocks. The lower the beta value of the stock, the lesser the risk of volatility (Caplinger, 2019). Further, income stocks are assets that provide the highest yield rate (3-6%) to investors.

Growth stocks

Companies raising growth stocks aim to generate growth opportunities for the future through expansion. Hence, growth stocks have a higher price-to-earnings ratio (greater than 20) than the average rate in the market. Stoddard, (2013) stated that the threshold value of price to earnings ratio for categorizing a stock as a growth stock is 20. There are more chances of capital gain for companies with growth stocks.

Value stocks

Compared to growth stocks, value stocks are issued by undervalued companies. Thus, their main purpose is not to grow but to gain a stronghold in the market. Therefore, the price-to-earnings ratio of value stocks is less than 15 (Beneda, 2002). Moreover, their price-to-book value ratio is less than 1.5. Hence, stocks having a price-to-earnings ratio of less than or equal to 15 along with a price-to-book value ratio of less than or equal to 1.5 are labelled as value stocks.

The table below summarises these key differences between the three types of stocks.

Stock Threshold value
Income Stocks Beta ≤ 1 and Dividend yield between 3-6%
Growth Stocks P/E ≥ 20
Value Stocks P/E ≤ 15 and P/B ≤ 1.5

Table 1: Categorization of Stocks


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