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Common stock, or ordinary shares.

Many companies have only one class of stock, often called common stock, or ordinary shares. This class of stock carries residual ownership of the company, entitling the holder to unlimited interest in the earnings and assets of the company after limited claims are paid. Common stockholders have the right to control the company through their voting rights, unless such rights are specifically withheld, as in special classes of “nonvoting” shares. The common stockholders’ legal rights may also include preemptive rights to maintain their proportion of equity when new stock is issued. Dividends paid on common stock are usually unstable because they tend to vary with earnings; they are also usually less than earnings, the difference being used by management to expand the firm and allow the stockholders’ equity to grow. The market price of common stock is often subject to wide fluctuations, because it depends largely upon investors’ expectations of future earnings.

 

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