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What is a limit order?

A limit order is a specific kind of order that investors and traders use to buy or sell a security at a predetermined price or better. Unlike a market order, which executes immediately at the current market price, a limit order only fills if the security’s market price reaches the specified limit price.

Detailed Explanation

Purpose of Limit Orders:

The primary purpose of a limit order is to provide the investor with greater control over the execution price. By setting a specific price threshold, the investor ensures that they won’t pay more (for a buy order) or receive less (for a sell order) than their desired price.

Buy Limit Order:

This is an order to purchase a security at or below a specified price. For instance, if a stock is currently trading at $50 and an investor places a buy limit order at $48, the order will only be executed if the stock’s price drops to $48 or lower.

Sell Limit Order:

This is an order to sell a security at or above a specified price. Using the previous example, if an investor places a sell limit order at $52 for a stock currently trading at $50, the order will only be executed if the stock’s price rises to $52 or higher.

Duration of Limit Orders

Limit orders can come with various time frames

Day Order:

Expires at the end of the trading day if not executed.

Good ‘Til Canceled (GTC):

Remains active until the investor cancels it or the order is executed.

Immediate or Cancel (IOC):

Must be executed immediately. Any portion of the order that cannot be filled right away is canceled.

Fill or Kill (FOK):

Must be executed immediately in its entirety or not at all.


Price Control:

Investors can set a precise price at which they are willing to trade.


Particularly useful for investors with a strict budget, ensuring no unexpected costs.


Helps avoid buying or selling at unfavorable prices during volatile market conditions.


No Guarantee:

The order may never be executed if the security doesn’t reach the specified price.

Missed Opportunities:

If the market moves in the opposite direction, investors might miss out on potential profits.

Comparison with Market Orders:

While market orders are designed for speed and guarantee execution, limit orders are designed for price control. However, with limit orders, there’s a risk that the trade might not be executed if the specified price isn’t met.

In Conclusion

A limit order is a valuable tool for investors who prioritize price over execution speed. It offers a safeguard against the unpredictability of market prices, ensuring that investors trade within their comfort zones. However, like all trading tools, it’s essential to understand its benefits and limitations fully before using it in your investment strategy.