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I searched this before but never got further than generic definitions and and websites to look at. What I'm looking for is how to define a stock's shares float quantity. How does Yahoo Finance or Finviz define the amount of shares float?

By definition shares float is represented by 'subtracting closely held shares -- owned by insiders, employees, the company's Employee Stock Ownership Plan or other major long-term shareholders -- from the total shares outstanding' Still, how does anyone calculate that? Where do they get the data?

I've searched all 10-Q and 10-K files on SEC for long-term shareholders and it doesn't show anywhere.

For the sake of argument, at the momento I'm searching this stock: AVCT and it's shares float is 1,48M on Yahoo Finance. How do I find this value on SEC fillings?

Any help trying to get the 'original' data is more than welcome.

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  • $\begingroup$ I believe it is the data providers (such as Standard & Poor's or FTSE Russell) who determine the float based on their internal criteria, not the company (so it is not part of the company's filing with the SEC). I am not sure who Yahoo gets it from. $\endgroup$
    – noob2
    Aug 6 '20 at 22:59
  • $\begingroup$ This makes more sense to me. Still, if they were outsourced why are not all the same? Finviz got different Float from Yahoo Finance for AVCT as exemple $\endgroup$ Aug 6 '20 at 23:02
  • $\begingroup$ Anyway, thanks for the help, this is a tricky question $\endgroup$ Aug 6 '20 at 23:02
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The term float shares is not well-defined. The idea seems simple: exclude shares which are not likely or able to trade. However, this immediately raises questions of which shares to exclude:

  • shares which have not traded in a few years?
  • shares held in a trust prohibiting them from trading over the next 5 years?
  • shares held by a long-term investor?
  • shares which are restricted?
  • shares held in an employee retirement account?

Hence you will find different numbers for float shares depending on your data source.

This article from Zack's discusses these issues. When computing float shares, we usually exclude shares held by company insiders, investors with a controlling interest, and restricted shares. Some data sources will also exclude shares held in employee stock ownership or retirement plans. Should shares held in a unit investment trust be excluded? I would argue they should be since the trust's portfolio being unmanaged means the UIT will not trade them even if the stock goes bankrupt. Unfortunately, I think most data sources do not exclude these shares.

The Frank Russell Company and MSCI use float shares in computing float market cap for their equity indices. However, if you just are looking for a measure of potential liquidity, I would instead look at the distribution of turnover.

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