The primary market is where securities are first issued and sold before trading on secondary markets. This includes initial public offerings (IPOs) for stocks and new issues of bonds or other fixed-income products.
As a trader in these markets, having sound practices and strategies is key to long-term profitability and risk management. Here are some of the major best practices to follow:
Research Thoroughly Before Investing
Doing diligent research should be the foundation of any investment decision, but this is especially crucial when securities are just entering the marketplace. Review the issuer’s filings and disclosures, analyze fundamentals like financial statements and growth projections, research the management team’s background, understand relevant industry trends and competitive dynamics, speak with analysts who cover the sector, and more. This will allow you to gauge the real risk-return profile instead of speculative hype.
Have a Methodical IPO Investment Process
With IPOs bringing so much excitement, it’s vital to have a structured process for evaluating each offering. Quantitatively screen each prospectus to score IPOs on valuation, growth metrics, financial quality, use of proceeds, lock-up expirations, and expected price action. Then conduct additional qualitative reviews on the most promising names. This methodical system keeps you objective amidst the hype.
Utilize Advanced Order Types
As a trader in the primary market, you have access to more advanced order types like limit orders and market orders. Make full use of these instead of putting in simple market-buy orders. For example, enter price limit orders to express your true price discipline, while using market orders sparingly when you have conviction in investing at the opening price. This strategic use of order types helps ensure you get better fills.
Avoid Overallocation Risk
The extreme price swings seen with some IPOs and secondaries are often driven by the practice of hot issuances being 20–50 times oversubscribed in the allocation process. This creates a major supply-demand imbalance right out of the gate. As an individual trader, you can’t control this but should be aware of the risk so you can avoid overextending on overhyped new issues that could see major early corrections.
Hold Appropriate Positions and sizes.
In general, when trading primary markets across stocks, bonds, or other instruments, adhere to sound position-sizing principles. That means properly balancing your position sizes in new issues relative to your overall portfolio’s structure and target risk parameters. It is easy to want to take outsized positions in the latest hot IPO name, but resisting that urge is key. Proper position sizing also enables you to diversify evenly across multiple new issuances.
Take Advantage of Flipping Opportunities
Some IPOs can give traders quick flipping opportunities in the first days and weeks of trading. You can take advantage of this through disciplined profit-taking once prices hit your targets, then rotating back into new deals as fresh opportunities emerge. The key here is identifying the likely quick-flip candidates through quantitative and qualitative analysis done in the research phase.
Deploy Stop Orders Judiciously
It is generally wise to utilize stop-loss orders as a risk management tool, but with IPOs just starting to trade, markets can be volatile enough to take out your stops prematurely. Consider whether wider stops or other tactics are necessary to let your original investment thesis play out. Sometimes giving positions a bit more room to fluctuate delivers better performance.
Pay Attention to Lock-Up Expirations
ICMA mentioned that insiders of newly public companies cannot sell their shares until the expiration of lock-up periods, usually 180 days post-IPO. As these expirations approach, be aware of the potential for millions of new shares flooding the market, which could induce selling pressures or price volatility. Make decisions on whether to hold through lockups or sell beforehand, depending on your original strategy.
Trade Beyond Just IPOs
Other less talked-about opportunities beyond IPOs exist too, like direct listings, which bypass the underwriting process, or the issuance of new bond deals. Have processes in place to scan for and evaluate these other primary market chances so you don’t miss out on their unique trading dynamics and Alpha opportunities.
Stay Informed on Regulation Changes
Primary market trading practices can shift significantly when regulators update guidance or rules around areas like allocation methodologies, publicity restrictions, book-building, flipping allowances, and more. Know which regulatory bodies oversee your market areas and monitor for any rule changes. Being an early adopter of revised practices can give you an edge.
Don’t Neglect Continuing Education
While belief in an investment thesis or interest in a new offering is critical, it should also be combined with a willingness to continuously learn. Great traders stand out by constantly improving their financial analysis skills, staying on top of sector trends and macro drivers, and evolving their toolkits. Never stop learning.
Embrace Technology & Automation
Finally, employ the latest trading technologies and automation tools to augment your proprietary work. Sophisticated algorithms can quantify IPO value faster, machine learning can parse sentiment and predict price movement, and automated screening can discover promising targets. Combining human discernment with technology enables superior results.
Use a Diverse Set of Information Sources
In the era of social media and retail trader chat rooms, sentiment and rumours around IPOs can spread rapidly online and move share prices, at least in the short term. Savvy traders should utilize these chat rooms, Reddit threads, Discord channels, tweets, and other digital sources to take the market’s pulse on issuer sentiment leading up to offerings. However, be warned that this information can be speculative or manipulative. Balance it with cold, hard analysis from traditional outlets like S-1 filings, research reports, and news feeds. Blend both traditional and social data sources for a diverse view.
Following these major best practices around research, investing processes, risk management, trading strategies, regulatory awareness, continuing education, and technology utilization will allow primary market traders to find that elusive balance of risk and reward. As with any domain, developing true mastery requires going beyond just the fundamentals to integrate the right methodologies, frameworks, and tools as well. Master these key practices and thrive amid the influx of new securities.