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I'm new to investing. I'm looking into using an online discount broker to experiment with private trading. I'm in a position I don't mind losing money, but I don't want to lose more than I put in. EDIT: I meant to say I don't want to have obligations to buy a stock that are more than I put into my trading account.

I was initially concerned about the idea of putting a request in for a stock at a certain price, and having it end up costing much more than I anticipated (and potentially more than I might have in my account.) Then I discovered limit orders.

It seems like a no-brainer to use limit orders in order to control risk. Then when I did some research my beliefs seemed to be confirmed, but very few seem to comment on when a market order is appropriate. So my question naturally comes to: in what cases [if any] would it be appropriate to use a market order?

  • 4
    When you want immediate and guaranteed execution. i.e some news has come out and you want to get in before the herd. They key thing to remember is that a limit order may never get filled if the limit price is not reached. But considering a liquid market,a market order will always get filled. – Victor123 Feb 16 '14 at 17:55
  • @Victor123 I'm afraid there is no guaranteed execution with a market order, especially if the market for the security is not efficient. Liquidity partner(s) do assist rapid executions of a market order on well traded securities. – emican Jun 2 '17 at 2:37
10

If you have $10000 and wish to buy 1000 shares of a $10 stock, you risk borrowing on margin if you go over a bit.

For some people, that's a non-issue. Some folk with an account worth say, $250K don't mind going over now and then or even let the margin account run $100K on a regular basis.

But your question is about market orders. A limit order above the market price will fast-fill at the market anyway. When I buy a stock, it's longer term usually. A dime on a $30 share price won't affect my buy decision, so market is ok for me.

11

You put in a market order when you want to sell to whomever raises their hand first. It results in the fastest possible liquidation of your stock.

It's appropriate when you need to sell now, regardless of price.

An example of when to use it: It's 3:55 PM, the market's going to close in 5 minutes and you need to sell some stocks to make some kind of urgent payment elsewhere. If instead you have a limit order in place, you might not reach the limit price before the market closes, and you'll still own the stock, which might not be what you want.

  • 1
    A limit order does not become a market order when the limit price is met. A buy limit order cannot go above the limit price (or a sell limit order below the limit price) if your total order is not totally filled when the price is met. The limit order will remain in the market at the limit price until the order is fully filled at that price or cancelled. – Victor Jun 24 '13 at 1:24
  • @Victor Deleted the last part about limit orders. – mbhunter Jun 24 '13 at 1:36
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Firstly what are you trading that you could lose more than you put in? If you are simply trading stocks you will not lose more than you put in, unless you are trading on margin.

A limit order is basically that, a limit on the maximum price you want your buy order bought at or the minimum price you want your sell order sold at. If you can't be glued to the screen all day when you place a limit order, and the market moves the opposite way, you may miss out on your order being executed. Even if you can be in front of the screen all day, you then have to decide if you want to chase the market of miss out on your purchase or sale.

For example, if a stock is trading at $10.10 and you put a limit buy order to buy 1000 shares at or below $10.00 and the price keeps moving up to $10.20, then $10.30 and then $10.50, until it closes the day at $11.00. You then have the choice during the day to miss out on buying the shares or to increase your limit order in order to buy at a higher price. Sometime if the stock is not very liquid, i.e. it does not trade very often and has low volume, the price may hit $10.00 and you may only have part of your order executed, say 500 out of your 1000 shares were bought. This may mean that you may have to increase the price of your remaining order or be happy with only buying 500 shares instead of 1000. The same can happen when you are selling (but in reverse obviously).

With market order, however, you are placing a buy order to buy at the next bid price in the depth or a sell order to sell at the next offer price in the depth. See the market depth table below:

WBC Price Depth

Note that this price depth table is taken before market open so it seems that the stock is somewhat illiquid with a large gap between the first and second prices in the buyers (bid) prices. When the market opened this gap is closed, as WBC is a major Australian bank and is quite liquid. (the table is for demonstration purposes only).

If we pretend that the market was currently open and saw the current market depth for WBC as above, you could decide to place a limit sell order to sell 1000 shares at say $29.91. You would sell 100 shares straight away but your remaining 900 sell order will remain at the top of the Sellers list. If other Buyers come in at $29.91 you may get your whole sale completed, however, if no other Buyers place orders above $29.80 and other Sellers come into the market with sell orders below $29.91, your remaining order may never be executed. If instead you placed a market sell order you would immediately sell 100 shares at $29.91 and the remaining 900 shares at $29.80. (so you would be $99 or just over 0.3% worse off than if you were able to sell the full 1000 shares at $29.91). The question is how low would you have had to lower your limit order price if the price for WBC kept on falling and you had to sell that day?

There are risks with whichever type of order you use. You need to determine what the purpose of your order is. Is it to get in or out of the market as soon as possible with the possibility of giving a little bit back to the market? Or is it to get the price you want no matter how long it takes you? That is you are willing to miss out on buying the shares (can miss out on a good buy if the price keeps rising for weeks or months or even years) or you are willing to miss out on selling them right now and can wait for the price to come back up to the price you were willing to sell at (where you may miss out on selling the shares at a good price and they keep on falling and you give back all your profits and more).

Just before the onset of the GFC I sold some shares (which I had bought a few years earlier at $3.40) through a market order for $5.96. It had traded just above $6 a few days earlier, but if instead of a market order I had placed a limit order to sell at $6.00 or more I would have missed out on the sale. The price never went back up to $6 or above, and the following week it started dropping very quickly. It is now trading at about $1.30 and has never gone back above $2.00 (5.5 years later). So to me placing a limit order in this case was very risky.

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After learning about things that happened in the "flash crash" I always use limit orders. In an extremely rare instance if you place a market order when there is a some glitch, for example some large trader adds a zero at the end of their volume, you could get an awful price. If I want to buy at the market price, I just set the limit about 1% above the market price. If I want to sell, I set the limit 1% below the market price.

I should point out that your trade is not executed at the limit price. If your limit price on a buy order is higher than the lowest offer, you still get filled at the lowest offer. If before your order is submitted someone fills all offers up to your limit price, you will get your limit price. If someone, perhaps by accident, fills all orders up to twice your limit price, you won't end up making the purchase.

I have executed many purchases this way and never been filled at my limit price.

  • This is not the case. I don't pay extra at all. If the market price if the bid price is $100/share and the offer is $100.05/share and I put a limit order at $101, then I will get the $100.05/share price, just as if I put in a market order. The only way I pay the $101 price is if between the time I place the order and the time it gets to the exchange, someone else snaps up all offers less than $101. – Jonathan Harris Jun 2 '17 at 22:59

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