Shares outstanding is a stock market term that refers to all of the available stocks currently available to be purchased and held by investors. Shares outstanding do not include the stock in the treasury that have been repurchased by the company, but instead only the ones that shareholders currently own. The figure can typically be found on a balance sheet under the heading “Capital Stock”, and can vary significantly over time.
As the company sells off new shares and then buys some back, the shares outstanding fluctuates, making it a great indicator for the current health of the business. For example, the shares outstanding of a company might increase if they decide to sell more shares to the public, while it would be expected to decrease in the event of the reverse. Companies are required to provide regular financial reports to their investors, which will include the shares outstanding.
Just because shares are outstanding doesn’t mean they’re open to the public. Some of stock available might be restricted, saved for specific executives, or otherwise protected. As long as it isn’t held within the company treasury though, it is still calculated with the rest of the shares outstanding. The shares outstanding is a figure worth knowing as it is a crucial component of properly calculating the earnings per share (EPS) and understanding market capitalization.