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Foreign stock investment is a lot like investing in the Canadian market. You’ll need to find a stock trading platform with access to international exchanges so you can buy Hong Kong stocks, European stocks, Indian stocks, Japanese stocks, Australian stocks or more from Canada.
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There are many different account options to choose from, and it’s worth comparing them to choose the best one for you, like you would any other financial product. You’ll want to consider things like:
Once you’ve decided on an online broker, you can open your share trading account. If you already have a bank account with that provider then you can usually sign in via their online banking portal. If not, you will have to open a new account. To open an international share trading account you’ll generally need to meet the following eligibility criteria:
As part of the application process you will typically need to provide:
When opening the account you’ll be asked to choose whether you’ll be trading as an individual, with a joint account (for example, with your partner), as a company or organization or on behalf of a trust. Because share trading has income and tax implications you must provide details of your income and occupation. Along with your personal information, you may be required to disclose the source of your income and the origin of your financial position.
After you’ve provided your personal details, you’re up to the account set-up stage. This involves providing the details of your linked bank account, setting up financing options if applicable and choosing from the various options that may be available. Once you’ve confirmed everything and double checked your details, you’re ready to load your cash management account and start trading.
Some providers will require that you open one account for local shares and a separate account for international shares. If you already have a local account, you can open an international one in just a few quick steps. Simply follow the steps within your platform for adding an international account and link it to your regular account.
Simply fund the linked international account to start trading foreign stocks, plus any broker fees that will apply. Remember that when you transfer funds into your linked foreign currency account you’ll usually have to pay a foreign currency conversion fee, so it’s best not to be transferring funds in and out of the account on a regular basis. It can take a few days for your funds to be loaded into the cash account, so keep this in mind when you decide you’d like to make a trade.
Once you’ve set everything up, you can trade online through your new international share trading account. Expect to see a dashboard with features such as current share prices and changes over time and options to buy, sell or research. With the big banks and other trading accounts geared towards beginners, you may find tutorials and introductory material to help acquaint you with the available features.
When trading shares, you can choose to do it domestically or internationally.
Trade shares listed on Canadian stock exchanges. Trade within certain business hours and access only Canadian investment options, which make up about 2.7% of the global market. Major Canadian stock exchanges include the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX), Montreal Stock Exchange (MSE) and Canadian Securities Exchange (CSE).
Trade shares from global markets around the world 24 hours a day, subject to local market hours, including big global brands and household names. Gain access to more options, but also experience more risks and challenges.
International stock exchanges include the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), London Stock Exchange (LSE), the National Association of Securities Dealers Automated Quotations System (NASDAQ) and many others.
Compared to domestic trading, there are both advantages and disadvantages to trading shares internationally.
The Canadian government requires you to disclose information about any foreign assets you hold so that gains and dividends can be taxed appropriately. The taxes you may incur will depend on the country in which you are investing and the type of asset(s) you are invested in.
According to results from the Finder: Consumer Sentiment Tracker Q1 (CSTQ1), more than a third (36.18%) of Canadians considered equities to be a smart investment in the first quarter of 2023. This dropped only slightly in the second quarter of 2023 to 27%, according to the Finder: Consumer Sentiment Tracker Q2 (CSTQ2).
Men preferred stocks as an investment option, with 41% considered Q1 2023 a “good time to invest in stocks,” compared to 32% of female investors.(1)
Age also had an impact on an investor’s confidence in stocks as an investment opportunity. The youngest generation, Gen Z (investors up to the age of 24) had the most confidence in stocks as a good investment opportunity in the first quarter of 2023 with 53% believing “now is a good time to invest in stocks,” compared to 42% of millennials, 31% of Gen X and 19% of baby boomers.
In general, almost a third of Canadians investors (31%) held stocks outside of their registered accounts, such a retirement savings fund (RRSP) or Tax-Free Savings Fund Account (TFSA) and almost three quarters (72%) bought or sold stock through an online stock platform or app. This seems logical, given that 29% of respondents in the CSTQ2 stated they had never worked with and had no plans to use the services of a financial advisor.(2)
Trading international shares is a great way to diversify your portfolio and access a wide variety of stocks. As long as you are using a broker that supports international exchanges, you can buy and sell international shares with ease. You will need to be mindful of the exchange rate, as this will impact your return on investment.
If trading is new to you, you might want to start with the basics of share trading. If you already know how to buy international shares, you can simply compare brokers and open an account.
Making big trades? Look for lower exchange rates, research tools that allow you to make more reliable investments and flat broker fees rather than percentage rates. Where applicable, it may be worth accepting higher flat fees in exchange for lower percentage rates. Avoid low maximum limits which might constrain your trading.
Making a lot of small trades? You may want to avoid flat fees that take a big chunk out of the potential profits of each trade and stick to percentage rates that will cost you less. Low maximums are less of an issue, but high minimums might be a problem.
How will you diversify your portfolio? Not all accounts will give you the same options. Plan what kind of trades you want to make and consider whether a given account will let trade ETFs and if you are able to do forex trading through the same platform.
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