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CFDs vs Stocks: Which is Better for Trading?

Tobi Opeyemi Amure
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CFDs vs Stocks

When it comes to trading, choosing between CFDs (contracts for difference) and stocks can be a critical decision.

Both instruments offer unique advantages and risks.

In this article, I will explore the differences, benefits, and considerations of CFDs vs stocks, equipping you with the knowledge to determine which option aligns best with your trading goals.

What Is Stock Trading?

Stock trading refers to the buying and selling of shares or ownership in publicly traded companies through recognised stock exchanges.

It is a form of investing or speculating on the price movements of individual stocks or exchange-traded funds (ETFs).

In stock trading, investors can purchase shares of companies they believe will increase in value over time, aiming to profit from capital appreciation and potential dividends.

Conversely, traders can also sell stocks they don’t own (short selling) in anticipation of price declines, to buy them back at a lower price to profit from the difference.

Stock trading provides investors with the opportunity to participate in the growth and success of companies across various industries and sectors.

It allows for portfolio diversification and potential long-term wealth accumulation.

However, it’s important to note that stock trading carries risks, including market volatility, company-specific risks, and the potential for losses if stock prices decline.

To engage in stock trading, individuals typically need a brokerage account through which they can place buy or sell orders for the desired stocks.

Traders need to conduct research, analyse market trends, and make informed decisions based on their investment goals, risk tolerance, and market analysis.

Seeking guidance from financial professionals or using research tools can also be valuable when participating in stock trading.

What Is CFD Trading?

CFD trading is a popular form of derivative trading that allows investors to speculate on the price movements of various financial instruments without owning the underlying asset.

CFDs are financial contracts between traders and brokers, where they agree to exchange the difference in the price of an asset from the time the contract is opened to when it is closed.

In CFD trading, traders can take both long (buy) and short (sell) positions, enabling them to potentially profit from both rising and falling markets.

The objective is to speculate on the price movements of assets such as stocks, indices, commodities, currencies, or cryptocurrencies.

One of the key features of CFD trading is leverage, which allows traders to gain exposure to a larger position in the market with a smaller initial investment.

This leverage amplifies both potential profits and losses, making risk management an essential aspect of CFD trading.

CFD trading offers flexibility in terms of trading strategies, as traders can enter and exit positions at any time during market hours.

Additionally, CFDs provide access to a wide range of markets and instruments, allowing traders to diversify their portfolios.

It’s important to note that CFD trading involves risks, including the potential for significant losses if the market moves against the trader’s position.

Traders should have a good understanding of the markets they trade, employ risk management strategies, and stay informed about market trends and developments.

It can be beneficial to practice with virtual trading platforms or seek guidance from professionals before engaging in CFD trading activities.

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What Are the Key Differences Between CFDs & Stocks?

There are several key differences between CFDs and traditional stock trading (stocks and shares).

Here are some of the main distinctions:

  • Ownership: When trading stocks, investors own a portion of the company by purchasing shares. With CFDs, traders speculate on the price movements of the underlying asset without owning the asset itself.
  • Leverage: CFD trading offers leverage, allowing traders to gain exposure to a larger position with a smaller initial investment. In stock trading, leverage is not typically involved, and traders need to invest the full value of the shares they want to purchase.
  • Short-selling: CFDs provide the opportunity to take short positions, allowing traders to profit from falling prices (don’t forget the possibility of capital losses). Traditional stock trading generally requires owning shares before selling them, limiting the ability to profit from downward price movements.
  • Dividends & voting rights: Stockholders are entitled to dividends and have voting rights in the company. CFD traders do not receive dividends or have any ownership rights or voting privileges.
  • Market access: CFDs provide access to various markets, including stocks, indices, commodities, currencies, and cryptocurrencies. Stock trading is limited to buying and selling shares of individual companies listed on stock exchanges.
  • Costs: Stock trading involves brokerage fees, commissions, and potential fees for holding the shares in a brokerage account. CFD trading typically involves spreads, overnight financing charges, and other associated costs.
  • Regulatory framework: Stock trading is subject to regulations and oversight by financial authorities specific to each country. CFD trading is regulated differently, with varying levels of oversight and protections depending on the jurisdiction.
  • Holding period: Stocks can be held for the long term, allowing investors to potentially benefit from capital appreciation and dividends over time. CFDs are often used for short-term trading due to their flexibility and the ability to enter and exit positions quickly.

What Are Stock CFDs?

Stock CFDs are derivative instruments that enable traders to speculate on the price movements of individual stocks without owning the underlying shares.

In stock CFD trading, traders enter into an agreement with a broker to exchange the difference in the price of a specific stock from the time the contract is opened to when it is closed.

Stock CFDs closely track the price movements of the underlying stocks, allowing traders to potentially profit from both upward and downward price fluctuations. Traders can take long (buy) or short (sell) positions based on their market expectations.

Stock CFDs offer several advantages, including leverage that allows traders to gain exposure to a larger position with a smaller capital outlay. They also provide flexibility, as traders can enter or exit positions quickly, and offer the opportunity to diversify a trading portfolio by accessing a wide range of stocks from different markets.

While stock CFDs provide traders with the ability to speculate on stock prices, it’s important to note that traders do not own the underlying shares. This means stock CFD traders do not receive dividends or possess any voting rights in the company.

As with any trading instrument, there are risks associated with stock CFDs, including the potential for losses if the market moves against the trader’s position.

Traders should have a good understanding of the stock market, employ risk management strategies, and stay informed about market trends and news related to the stocks they trade.

Advantages of CFDs Over Stocks

CFDs (Contracts for Difference) offer several advantages over traditional stock trading.

  • Leverage: CFDs provide the opportunity to trade with leverage, allowing traders to control a larger position with a smaller amount of capital. This amplifies potential profits if the trade moves in the trader’s favor. However, it’s important to note that leverage also increases the risk of losses.
  • Short-selling: CFDs enable traders to take short positions and profit from falling prices. Unlike traditional stock trading, where you need to own the shares before selling them, CFDs allow you to easily speculate on price declines without owning the underlying asset.
  • Diverse market access: CFDs offer access to a wide range of markets, including stocks, indices, commodities, currencies, and cryptocurrencies. This allows traders to diversify their portfolios and take advantage of various market opportunities without needing to directly own the underlying assets.
  • Flexibility & liquidity: CFD trading provides flexibility in terms of trading strategies, allowing traders to enter and exit positions quickly. CFDs are generally highly liquid, making it easier to execute trades at desired prices.
  • Lower costs: CFD trading typically involves lower transaction costs compared to traditional stock trading. There are no commissions, stamp duty fees (in the UK), or custody fees associated with owning physical shares. Instead, traders usually pay spreads and potentially overnight financing charges.
  • Access to international markets: CFDs provide access to international markets that may be challenging to access for some traders. This allows for global diversification and the opportunity to trade assets listed on various exchanges around the world.

Advantages of Stocks & Shares Trading Over CFDs

Stocks and shares trading offer several advantages over CFDs.

  • Ownership: When you invest in stocks and shares, you own a portion of the company. This means you have ownership rights, including the ability to participate in shareholder meetings, vote on important company matters, and potentially receive dividends.
  • Dividends: Investing in stocks and shares provides the opportunity to receive dividends, which are a portion of the company’s profits distributed to shareholders. Dividends can be a source of regular income, especially from established and dividend-paying companies.
  • Long-term investment: Stocks and shares are well-suited for long-term investment strategies. By investing in solid companies with growth potential, you can benefit from capital appreciation over time. Long-term investing allows you to ride out market volatility and potentially generate significant returns.
  • Less complexity: Stocks and shares trading is relatively straightforward. The buying and selling process is simple, and there are no complex contract structures involved. Traders can easily analyse company fundamentals, market trends, and make informed investment decisions.
  • Transparency: Stock markets operate with a high level of transparency. Information about publicly traded companies is widely available, including financial statements, analyst reports, and market news. This transparency allows investors to make informed decisions based on reliable information.
  • Regulatory protection: Stocks and shares trading is subject to regulatory oversight and investor protection measures. Regulatory bodies aim to ensure fair and transparent markets, providing a level of security and investor confidence.
  • Historical performance: Stocks have a long history of generating wealth for investors. Over the long term, well-performing stocks have consistently delivered attractive returns, outpacing inflation and other investment options.

Is CFD Trading Riskier Than Stock Trading?

In comparing the risk levels of CFD trading and stock trading, it’s important to consider various factors.

CFD trading often involves the use of leverage, which can amplify both potential profits and losses.

This higher leverage can increase the risk associated with CFD trading compared to stock trading.

Additionally, CFD trading allows for short-selling, which introduces a different level of risk as traders can potentially incur unlimited losses if the market moves against their position.

On the other hand, stock trading carries its own set of risks, including market volatility, company-specific risks, and potential capital loss if stock prices decline.

Ultimately, the riskiness of trading in either market depends on individual trading strategies, risk management techniques, and market knowledge.

Both CFD trading and stock trading require careful consideration of risk factors and the implementation of appropriate risk management practices to minimise potential losses.

Is CFD Trading Cheaper Than Stock Trading?

In terms of transaction costs, CFD trading can be considered relatively cheaper compared to traditional stock trading.

CFDs typically involve lower commission fees and fewer additional expenses than stock trading.

When trading stocks, investors may incur brokerage fees, exchange fees, clearing fees, and other charges associated with owning and transferring physical shares.

In contrast, CFD trading typically involves spreads, which are the differences between buying and selling prices, and potentially overnight financing charges.

However, it’s important to note that the overall cost structure can vary depending on the specific broker, online trading platform, and the size of the trades conducted.

Traders should carefully compare the fees associated with both CFD and stock trading and consider them in conjunction with other factors such as leverage, access to markets, and the trading strategy being employed.

CFDs vs Stocks – Final Thoughts

The choice between CFDs and stocks depends on individual trading preferences, risk tolerance, and specific trading goals.

CFDs offer advantages such as leverage, short-selling opportunities, and access to diverse markets.

Stocks provide ownership rights, potential dividends, and long-term investment opportunities.

Both trading options have their characteristics and risks.

You should carefully consider factors like leverage, ownership, costs, and market access when making your decision.

Ultimately, the suitability of CFDs or stocks for trading depends on individual circumstances, investment objectives, and the level of understanding and experience in each market.

FAQs

Are CFDs a good long-term investment?

CFDs are generally not considered suitable long-term investments. CFDs are primarily designed for short-term trading and speculation on price movements rather than for long-term investment purposes. They are better suited for capturing short-term market opportunities and taking advantage of price volatility. CFDs do not provide the same benefits as long-term investments in terms of ownership rights, dividends, and potential growth of the underlying asset. Additionally, the use of leverage in CFD trading can increase the risk of significant losses. For long-term investment goals, traditional investment vehicles like stocks, mutual funds, or exchange-traded funds (ETFs) may be more appropriate, as they provide the potential for long-term growth, dividends, and the benefits of compounding.

Are CFDs good for beginners?

CFDs may not be the most suitable choice for beginners due to their complexity and associated risks. CFD trading requires a solid understanding of market dynamics, risk management strategies, and the ability to interpret price movements. The leverage offered in CFD trading can magnify both profits and losses, making it challenging for beginners to manage risk effectively. It is recommended that beginners start with simpler investment options, such as stocks or mutual funds, which provide a more straightforward approach to investing and a better foundation for learning. As beginners gain knowledge and experience in trading, they can gradually explore more complex instruments like CFDs, taking into account their risk tolerance and seeking guidance from professionals. Beginners need to focus on education, practice with virtual platforms, and understand the risks involved before venturing into CFD trading or any other form of active trading.

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Will Fenton is the founder of Sterling Savvy. He is a personal finance expert and writes about trading, investing, budgeting, and other financial topics.

Along with his education in Economics & Finance, he has experience working in the financial services industry in London working for one of the UK’s leading financial companies, “a trustworthy and respected provider of news, education and market analysis for the everyday investor”.

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