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Corporations may issue warrants that allow you to buy a company's stock at a fixed price during a specific period of time, often 10 or 15 years, though sometimes there is no expiration date.
Warrants are generally issued as an incentive to investors to accept bonds or preferred stocks that will be paying a lower rate of interest or dividends than would otherwise be paid.
How attractive the warrants are -- and so how effective they are as an incentive to purchase -- generally depends on the growth potential of the issuing company. The brighter the outlook, the more attractive the warrant becomes.
When a warrant is issued, the exercise price is above the current market price. For example, a warrant on a stock currently trading at $15 a share might guarantee you the right to buy the stock at $30 a share within the next 10 years. If the price goes above $30, you can exercise, or use, your warrant to purchase the stock, and either hold it in your portfolio or resell at a profit. If the price of the stock falls over the life of the warrant, however, the warrant becomes worthless.
Warrants are listed with a "wt" following the stock symbol and traded independently of the underlying stock. If you own warrants to purchase a stock at $30 a share that is currently trading for $40 a share, your warrants are theoretically be worth a minimum of $10 a share, or their intrinsic value.