If you own shares in Harvard Bioscience, Inc. (NASDAQ:HBIO) then it's worth thinking about how it contributes to the volatility of your portfolio, overall. In finance, Beta is a measure of volatility. Volatility is considered to be a measure of risk in modern finance theory. Investors may think of volatility as falling into two main categories. The first category is company specific volatility. This can be dealt with by limiting your exposure to any particular stock. The other type, which cannot be diversified away, is the volatility of the entire market. Every stock in the market is exposed to this volatility, which is linked to the fact that stocks prices are correlated in an efficient market.
Some stocks are more sensitive to general market forces than others. Beta is a widely used metric to measure a stock's exposure to market risk (volatility). Before we go on, it's worth noting that Warren Buffett pointed out in his 2014 letter to shareholders that 'volatility is far from synonymous with risk.' Having said that, beta can still be rather useful. The first thing to understand about beta is that the beta of the overall market is one. A stock with a beta below one is either less volatile than the market, or more volatile but not corellated with the overall market. In comparison a stock with a beta of over one tends to be move in a similar direction to the market in the long term, but with greater changes in price.
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What HBIO's beta value tells investors
Given that it has a beta of 1.34, we can surmise that the Harvard Bioscience share price has been fairly sensitive to market volatility (over the last 5 years). If the past is any guide, we would expect that Harvard Bioscience shares will rise quicker than the markets in times of optimism, but fall faster in times of pessimism. Many would argue that beta is useful in position sizing, but fundamental metrics such as revenue and earnings are more important overall. You can see Harvard Bioscience's revenue and earnings in the image below.
Does HBIO's size influence the expected beta?
Harvard Bioscience is a noticeably small company, with a market capitalisation of US$90m. Most companies this size are not always actively traded. It takes less money to influence the share price of a very small company. This may explain the excess volatility implied by this beta value.
What this means for you:
Since Harvard Bioscience has a reasonably high beta, it's worth considering why it is so heavily influenced by broader market sentiment. For example, it might be a high growth stock or have a lot of operating leverage in its business model. In order to fully understand whether HBIO is a good investment for you, we also need to consider important company-specific fundamentals such as Harvard Bioscience’s financial health and performance track record. I urge you to continue your research by taking a look at the following:
- Future Outlook: What are well-informed industry analysts predicting for HBIO’s future growth? Take a look at our free research report of analyst consensus for HBIO’s outlook.
- Past Track Record: Has HBIO been consistently performing well irrespective of the ups and downs in the market? Go into more detail in the past performance analysis and take a look at the free visual representations of HBIO's historicals for more clarity.
- Other Interesting Stocks: It's worth checking to see how HBIO measures up against other companies on valuation. You could start with this free list of prospective options.
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If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at email@example.com. This article by Simply Wall St is general in nature. It does not constitute a recommendation to buy or sell any stock, and does not take account of your objectives, or your financial situation. Simply Wall St has no position in the stocks mentioned. Thank you for reading.