How Do You Know When to Buy, Sell, Or Hold a Stock? (2024)

By Ashley Kilroy ·February 27, 2024 · 9 minute read

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How Do You Know When to Buy, Sell, Or Hold a Stock? (1)

Since investors don’t have (functional) crystal balls, figuring out how to know when to buy a stock, in an effort to time the market and generate the biggest return, is difficult. While you shouldn’t necessarily try to time the market, if you are trading and incorporating some knowledge and tactics around when to buy a stock as a part of your larger financial plan, you’ll want to do what you can to fine-tune your strategy.

Trading stocks, of course, is fairly risky, and investors will want to keep that in mind. But with some practice and knowledge, you may be able to figure out the best time to buy stocks, and other variables, to help you try to boost your portfolio.

Key Points

• Timing the stock market is difficult, but understanding when to trade stocks can help your portfolio.

• The best time of day to buy stocks is usually in the morning, shortly after the market opens.

• Mondays and Fridays tend to be good days to trade stocks, while the middle of the week is less volatile.

• Historically, April, October, and November have been the best months to buy stocks, while September has shown the worst performance.

• Knowing when to hold or sell stocks depends on personal strategies, research, and confidence in the stock’s potential for growth.

The Best Times to Buy Stocks

As noted, it’s generally not a good idea to try and time the market. But that’s not to say that there are larger market forces at work that result in certain trends. With that in mind, there can be good times of the day, days of the week, and even months to buy stocks that could generate bigger returns – though nothing is guaranteed.

The Best Time of Day to Buy Stocks

First and foremost, remember when the stock market is open and when trading is occurring. The New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq, two of the largest and most active stock exchanges, are open 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. ET, Monday through Friday.

With that, the best time of the day, in terms of price action, is usually in the morning, in the hours immediately after the market opens up until around 11:30 a.m. ET, or so. That’s generally when most trading happens, leading to the biggest price fluctuations and chances for investors to take advantage.

The Best Day of the Week to Buy Stocks

If investors are aiming to trade during times of relative volatility, then they’ll want to utilize a trading strategy that aims to crowd their activity near the beginning and end of the week. Monday is probably the best day to trade stocks, since there is likely considerable volatility pent up over the weekend.

That said, Friday can also be a good day to trade, as investors make moves to prepare their portfolios for a couple of days off. The middle of the week tends to be the least volatile.

The Best Month to Buy Stocks

When thinking about the best months to buy stocks, examining historic performance can be helpful. For instance, looking at monthly returns from 2000 to 2020, the best months to buy are usually April, October, and November. Conversely, the month with the worst historic performance is September.

Again, these “best times to buy stocks” in terms of times, days, and months aren’t guarantees of anything, but are merely based on historical performance. That can be good to keep in mind.

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When Should You Buy Stocks

There’s a difference between “can” and “should” – and investors trying to discern when they should buy stocks should really consider their personal preferences, risk tolerance, and investment strategies. The right time to buy a stock is when an investor has done their research and feels confident that a stock price will rise in the short or long term, and that they’re willing to hold onto it until it does.

It helps to be informed when considering whether to buy stocks, and one way to do that is to learn about the company itself. Interested investors can find many company’s financial reports and earnings reports from government databases or private company research reports.

While ultimately it may be a good idea to buy stocks across different industries in order to diversify, it sometimes helps to start with a business or industry one is familiar with. Knowing about the company can help put the earnings reports into context.

Understanding the value of stocks is often, if not always tied to understanding the business those stocks represent a share in. Is the company a good investment? Does it have sound financials and growth potential? Here are helpful questions to consider when contemplating buying a stock:

What is the price range at which you’re willing to buy? If an investor has a company in mind, setting a price range at which they would want to buy stock in that company may help inform their decision. One can do this through analysts’ reports and consensus price targets, which average all analyst opinions.

Does the stock appear undervalued? There are different ways to determine value. The most common valuation metric is a price-earnings ratio (or P/E), which takes the price per share and divides it by earnings per share. The lower the number, the less the value. Generally for U.S. companies, a P/E below 15 is considered a good value and a P/E over 20 is considered a bad value. You can also compare the company’s P/E to others in the industry.

Another way to look at value is a discounted cash flow (DCF) analysis, which takes projected cash values and discounts them back to the present. This ultimately gives an investor a theoretical price target; if the actual price is below the target, then in theory, it’s undervalued and a good buy.

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When Is the Worst Time to Buy Stocks?

Just as there are the purported best times to buy stocks, there are also the worst times to buy stocks, too. Given that investors may be looking for relatively volatile times in the market to buy stocks, relatively calm periods during the trading day may be the worst times to buy. Those hours would be during the middle of the day, perhaps from 11:30 a.m. ET until 3 p.m. ET.

In terms of days of the week? Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays may be worse than Mondays or Fridays, barring any market-moving news or other volatility-inducing events. Finally, September, February, and May tend to be the weakest-performing months for the stock market, dating back nearly a century.

How Do You Know When to Hold Stocks?

Knowing when to hold a stock often comes down to one’s investment strategy. With a passive investment approach, investors invest in various stocks with the intention of holding them for an indefinite amount of time. This is also known as a buy and hold investment strategy.

With this type of investing, investors attempt to match a market index such as and the Dow Jones Industrial Average. So, they select stocks in that market index coinciding with the same percentages in that index.

One benefit of the buy and hold strategy is that the tax rate on long-term capital gains (from stocks that an investor has owned for more than one year) are much lower than that of short-term capital gains.

For many, if not most investors, if you’re going to buy a stock, it may be a good strategy to hold onto it for a while. When an investor buys an undervalued stock, it could take a few years for it to reach its “correct” valuation. And of course, there’s always a risk it will never reach what the investor has determined is the correct valuation.

Not everyone holds onto their stocks for a long time, but there are risks to day trading that may inspire some to become buy-and-holders.

How Do You Know When to Sell a Stock?

Just like how a decision to hold a stock largely depends on an individual investor’s specific strategy, so does the choice as to whether or not to sell.

Some investors rely on a rule of thumb that states that the stock market reaches a high point in May or June and then goes down over the summer until September or October. While that can sometimes be observed in overall market behavior — partially because traders (just like lots of people) go on vacation in the summer and partially because it’s a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy — it doesn’t mean an individual stock will definitely go down over the summer.

Taking this advice, however, — and other, similar types of advice – should be taken with a grain of salt. Again, the choice of whether to sell a stock is up to you, and the research you’ve put into making the decision.

Recommended: When to Sell Stock

The Takeaway

Knowing when to buy, sell, and hold stocks can be less confusing when an investor does the research into company health, overall market conditions, and their own financial needs as relates to personal short-term and long-term goals.

One of the easiest ways to buy and sell stocks or manage any investment portfolio is to open an online taxable brokerage account. This is often appealing to investors who want to take more of an active investing approach and buy and sell stocks. Investors would typically pay fees based on the account and the number of trades they make.

Ready to invest in your goals? It’s easy to get started when you open an investment account with SoFi Invest. You can invest in stocks, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), mutual funds, alternative funds, and more. SoFi doesn’t charge commissions, but other fees apply (full fee disclosure here).

For a limited time, opening and funding an Active Invest account gives you the opportunity to get up to $1,000 in the stock of your choice.


Is it best to buy stocks when they are down?

The best time to buy a stock is when an investor has done their research and due diligence, and decided that the investment fits their overall strategy. With that in mind, buying a stock when it is down may be a good idea – and better than buying a stock when it is high. But there are always risks to take into consideration.

Should I buy stocks at night?

Investors can engage in after-hours trading, but there are unique risks to doing so, and orders won’t execute until the market opens. Interested investors may want to try after-hours trading to get a feel for it before fully incorporating it into their strategy.

What are the worst months for the stock market?

Based on past performance, the worst months for the stock market tend to be in the early fall and summer. September is usually the worst, but October, June, and August can be bad as well.

You may also be interested in:

What You Need to Know When the Market Is Down

Is Stock Market Timing a Smart Investment Strategy?

5 Investment Strategies for Beginners

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