# How Do Stock Market Returns Work? The word "returns" indicates how much profit the market returns to you. Hemera Technologies/AbleStock.com/Getty Images

When you put your money in a stock, you expect to get back more than you put in. This is called a positive return. If you get back less than you put in, you have a negative return. You can calculate the return for individual stocks and you can also figure the total return for your entire stock portfolio.

## Price Changes

When you buy a stock, you get it at a specific price per share. For example, you may buy XYZ company at \$26 a share. If the stock price goes up to \$30 and you sell it, you made a profit of \$4 per share. If the stock price goes down to \$24 and you sell it, you have a loss of \$2 per share. You can calculate this as a percentage. Divide your gain or loss by the original share price and multiply by 100. In our example, \$4 divided by \$26 equals .15. Multiply by 100 and you see that you made a 15 percent profit. For the loss in the example, divide 2 by 26, and that equals .07. Multiply by 100 to find that you had a loss of 7 percent.

## Yield

If you own a dividend-paying stock, the money you receive is called a yield. For example, if a stock pays a 2 percent dividend, you have a yield of 2 percent. The percentage is figured as an annual rate. A 2 percent yield means you get 2 percent of your original investment paid to you each year as a dividend.

## Total Positive Return

If you had a profit on the stock and a dividend, add the percentage of profit to the percentage the dividend paid. In our example, a 15 percent profit plus a 2 percent dividend means you had a total positive return of 17 percent. The most common way to say this is that you had a gain of 17 percent.

## Total Negative Return

If you had a loss instead of a profit on the stock, subtract the percentage loss from the dividend percentage. In our example, the loss of 7 percent subtracted from the 2 percent dividend equals -5 percent. You had a total negative return of 5 percent. It would be appropriate to say you had a loss of 5 percent.