Most people equate the pink sheets with risky penny stocks that are more gambles than investments. In fact, many brokers provide warnings to customers before they purchase these stocks, and some won't even let you buy them.
In a bid to clean up their act (and their perception among investors), Pink OTC Markets Inc., which provides the system for trading pink sheet and over-the-counter stocks, is now slapping warning signs on some of their stock listings. Stop signs let potential investors know the company has limited or no information. A skull and crossbones marks companies that are highly questionable. The idea is to warn investors to look before they leap into a company that doesn't provide adequate disclosure.
But the OTC market isn't just for high-risk outcasts that can't make it to the Big Board. It also boasts a growing list of world-class foreign companies such as sportswear maker Adidas (OTC: ADDYY) and chemical company BASF (OTC: BASFY).
To showcase quality firms like these, Pink OTC has given these stocks their own logo: QX.
The QX designation and platform is a catchy way of setting these companies apart for their quality and excellence. It is open to both U.S. firms and foreign firms listed on a major stock exchange in their home country. They don't have to follow Sarbanes-Oxley rules or file with the Securities and Exchange -- in fact, they've moved to the OTC market to avoid these costly and burdensome reporting requirements.
But that doesn't mean their disclosure is inadequate, and there's no need to slap a stop sign on these stocks. To trade on the OTCQX, firms must post their financial statements and other documents in English on their company website.
But why does OTCQX matter? It separates the wheat from the chaff, but it does even more than that. The new OTCQX platform has sparked fresh demand for the stocks listed on it. According to Pink OTC data, Canadian companies saw trading volumes nearly quadruple in the United States and climb +54% on their primary Toronto stock exchange within three months of listing on the OTCQX market.
The best news? These firms serve as a fertile hunting ground for high-yield dividend payers. And all major online and full-service brokers trade the OTCQX market, including: Schwab, E*TRADE, Scottrade, TD Ameritrade, and Fidelity.
There's more good news for international investors. Most of the companies that trade today on this OTC platform are high-quality foreign firms, and international markets pay higher yields on average than those in the U.S.
With the introduction of OTCQX, investors now have a new hunting ground for high-yield international stocks. One thing to keep in mind: Stocks on the OTC are still thinly traded. For example, Tate & Lyle (OTC: TATYY) -- the maker of Splenda sweetener -- yields an attractive 6.5%, but only about 2,000 shares change hands daily.
Therefore it's best to use limit orders when making a trade. That way, you'll be sure to get the price you want.