While stocks can be classified in a number of ways, two of the most common are by market capitalization and by sector.
Market cap refers to the total market value of a company’s outstanding shares and is calculated by multiplying these shares by the current market price of one share. While the exact definition may vary depending on the market, large-cap companies are generally regarded as those with a market capitalization of $10 billion or more, while mid-cap companies are those with a market capitalization of between $2 billion and $10 billion, and small-cap companies fall between $300 million and $2 billion.10
The industry standard for stock classification by sector is the Global Industry Classification Standard (GICS), which was developed by MSCI and S&P Dow Jones Indices in 1999 as an efficient tool to capture the breadth, depth, and evolution of industry sectors. GICS is a four-tiered industry classification system that consists of 11 sectors and 24 industry groups. The 11 sectors are:11
- Consumer Discretionary
- Consumer Staples
- Health Care
- Information Technology
- Communication Services
- Real Estate
This sector classification makes it easy for investors to tailor their portfolios according to their risk tolerance and investment preference. For example, conservative investors with income needs may weigh their portfolios toward sectors whose constituent stocks have better price stability and offer attractive dividends through so-called defensive sectors such as consumer staples, health care, and utilities. Aggressive investors may prefer more volatile sectors such as information technology, financials, and energy.