OTC Markets Group: What it is, Structure, FAQs

Individual investors may find them attractive because of their low prices. However, these inexpensive shares can be risky and highly speculative. Over-the-counter (OTC) stocks are also known as unlisted stocks. Typically offered by small companies, they are traded through market makers, rather than through stock exchanges like the New York Stock Exchange or Nasdaq.

In general, OTC markets are typically less transparent than exchanges and are also subject to fewer regulations. Because of this, liquidity in the OTC market may come at a premium. The OTC markets have experienced improvements in recent years. This results in higher liquidity and better information for traders. Electronic quotation and trading have enhanced the OTC market; however, OTC markets are still characterised by a number of risks that may be less prevalent in formal exchanges. It consists of stocks that do not need to meet market capitalisation requirements.

OTC Markets: What It Is, How to Trade It, & Pros and Cons

Here’s a rundown of how the over-the-counter stock markets work and the types of securities you might find on the OTC markets. We’ll also discuss some other key information you should know before you decide whether OTC stocks are right for you. Founded in 1993, The Motley Fool is a financial services company dedicated to making the world smarter, happier, and richer. The Motley Fool reaches millions of people every month through our premium investing solutions, free guidance and market analysis on Fool.com, top-rated podcasts, and non-profit The Motley Fool Foundation.

Its website has up-to-date information on news, volume, and price. A broker-dealer is a person or institution that buys and sells securities. Broker-dealers are required to register with the Security Exchange Commission (SEC) and Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). The OTCQB is often called the “venture market” with a concentration of developing companies that have to report their financials to the SEC and submit to some oversight. Even then, consider the tier you plan to use and, of course, the reputation of the broker-dealer who will negotiate your trades.

  • In many cases, an OTC exchange will have less stringent regulations than a formal one.
  • For the StockBrokers.com 13th Annual Review published in January 2023, a total of 3,332 data points were collected over three months and used to score 17 top brokers.
  • Stocks quoted on the OTCBB must comply with certain limited U.S.
  • We also recommend avoiding brokers that charge a monthly platform fee, data fees, or monthly minimums, as those costs quickly add up.
  • For example, penny stocks are traded in the over-the-counter market, and are notorious for being highly risky and subject to scams and big losses.

In the United States, over-the-counter trading in stock is carried out by market makers using inter-dealer quotation services such as OTC Link (a service offered by OTC Markets Group). OTC Link allows broker-dealers not only to post and disseminate their quotes but also to negotiate trades through harmonics trading the system’s electronic messaging capability. This feature enabled it to replace the Over-the-Counter Bulletin Board (OTCBB), which was a quotation-only system. Since it has no disclosure requirements, the categorization of OTC Pink companies is from information provided by the company.

Stocks quoted on the OTCBB must comply with certain limited U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) reporting requirements. A stock exchange has the benefit of facilitating liquidity, providing transparency, and maintaining the current market price. In an OTC trade, the price is not necessarily publicly disclosed. The OTC Pink, now branded as the Pink Open Market, is the lowest and most speculative tier of the three marketplaces for the trading of over-the-counter (OTC) stocks.


Most brokers charge commissions on OTCs — even brokers that are usually commission-free. American Depositary Receipts (ADRs), sometimes called ADSs or bank certificates that represent a specified number of shares of a foreign stock. The equities that trading seasonalities in the futures market open trade via OTC are often small companies prohibited by the $295,000 cost to list on the NYSE and up to $75,000 on Nasdaq. Some well-known large companies are listed on the OTC markets, such as Allianz SE, BASF SE, Roche Holding Ag, and Danone SA.

Risks of Over-the-Counter Markets

These must be held by a minimum of 2,200 shareholders and the minimum share price must be $4.00. It also asks for an average monthly trading volume of 100,000 shares. These are not the only types of companies on the OTC market, however. Larger, established companies normally tend to choose an exchange to list and trade their securities on. For example, blue-chip stocks Allianz, BASF and Roche and Danone are traded on the OTCQX market. In trading terms, over-the-counter means trading through decentralised dealer networks.

The terminology of former OTC Pink or Pink Sheets has changed, and so have certain regulatory developments. Pink Markets, or Pink Open Market, is an over-the-counter trading platform for stocks not listed on major exchanges, often involving smaller companies, foreign entities, or those seeking less regulation. Recent regulatory changes aim to increase transparency and reduce risk in this speculative market. An OTC broker can execute trades of unlisted securities through the “over-the-counter” market. The most popular stocks trade on stock exchanges, and any stockbroker can trade a stock listed on an exchange. But some stocks can also be traded away from an exchange through the OTC market, which consists of broker-dealers who trade directly with each other.

Foreign Currency

You often see several minutes of movement in one direction before the price changes. Compare that to a listed stock, where the price action can get choppy. You might see big pulls on an upward move, all in the same minute. These days, in addition to providing quotation services, OTC Markets provides information.

Listing on a standard exchange is an expensive and time-consuming process and outside the financial capabilities of many smaller companies. Companies may also find that listing in the OTC market provides quick access to capital through the sale of shares. Bonds do not trade on a formal exchange but banks market them through broker-dealer networks and they are also considered OTC securities. In contrast to the total transparency of the stock exchanges, where prices are displayed for all to see, OTC is a buyer and seller secretly negotiating a price. The seller might offer the stock to one buyer for one price and to another buyer for another. NASDAQ, for example, charges companies up to $163,000 to be listed, assuming they qualify.

Pros and cons of investing in OTC markets

This is because the OTC and NASDAQ both allow up to five letters. In contrast, NYSE regulations limit a stock’s symbol to three letters. Investing in Pink Markets carries substantial risk due to the lack of stringent regulatory oversight. Risks include limited financial information, high volatility, low liquidity, and potential for fraud or manipulation.

Steven previously served as an Editor for Finance Magnates, where he authored over 1,000 published articles about the online finance industry. Steven is an active fintech and crypto industry researcher and advises blockchain companies at the board level. Over the past 20 years, Steven has held numerous positions within the international forex markets, from writing to consulting to serving as a registered commodity futures representative. Carolyn Kimball is managing editor for Reink Media and the lead editor for the StockBrokers.com Annual Review. Carolyn has more than 20 years of writing and editing experience at major media outlets including NerdWallet, the Los Angeles Times and the San Jose Mercury News. The StockBrokers.com best online brokers 2023 review, our 13th annual, took three months to complete and produced over 40,000 words of research.

Stock exchanges allow for more liquidity, oversight, and transparency than OTC markets. OTCQX is the top tier of the three marketplaces for island reversal pattern the OTC trading of stocks. Stocks that trade on this forum must meet more stringent qualification criteria compared to the other levels.

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