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If you are a Canadian in Canada who wishes to buy foreign stocks, depending on the stock, there are a number of ways to do this

Ways to buy foreign stocks in Canada.

1) Directly from the exchange.

Depending on your broker, you may be able to sign up to buy stocks directly from the exchange through your broker. They may charge an additional fee for access and for market data, but this might be your easiest bet. If you are dealing in stocks from the US, it is probably standard with your broker that you have access. So, you can most likely automatically buy NYSE, NASDAQ, or AMEX stocks through your online broker.

Questrade, the big banks, Interactive Brokers can all directly and by default buy most American securities. However, if you want to buy a stock in Japan (on the Tokyo exchange, you might have to pay extra or check out some of the below alternatives).

2) Through depositary Shares

Depositary shares, refered to as ADRs for short, are sometimes available for a particular equity. Some are traded on the TSX or the TSXv, but the greatest source for these shares is on the NYSE. As we stated above, you will have no problem buying stocks on the NYSE most likely, so some foreign companies, especially those with a large market cap, can be bought in American dollars. Examples: BP Oil, STO on the NYSE.

The problem with depositaries is they cost money to maintain and be on foreign exchanges, so many companies, especially lesser known companies, do not bother. Additionally, many foreign companies do not meet the requirements to be a member of these exchanges.

3) Pink Sheets

Some companies that wish to be traded in the USA and Canada, but cannot afford or meet the requirements of the NYSE, choose to get listed on pink sheets. Usually, they are small companies, but some larger better known companies choose to do this. eg. NTDOY (Nintendo) which is a large Japanese company.

4) ETFs

There are many ETFs which track the stock markets of different countries. If you want to own an ETF that tries to track the German or Norweigian economy, such an ETF exists. The drawbacks here are - you have to pay fees and you cannot purchase the individual stocks if that is what you desire. If you are wanting to buy a country's stocks because you believe in the macro economic picture, these might be for you.

5) Companies with total or part ownership

This one is rare, but a local or easily accesible american company might own all or part of the company you are interested in purchasing. For instance, Yahoo!, an American company, owns a large share or Alibaba, a Chinese company that you might be interested in.