Calculating the percent return of a stock that you own makes the gain easier to understand and allows you to better compare the performance of your holdings. The holding period return is the gain -- or loss -- you realize form the time you purchased the stock until the current date, or the date when the stock was sold. Taxes affect your net return depending on whether or not you have sold the stock, and what portion of the gains were dividends or capital gains.

Write down the following information from your online brokerage account information or your paper account statements: Cost to purchase the stock, purchase share price times number of shares plus commission paid; total amount of dividends received while owning the shares; current value of the shares or amount received when the shares were sold, including the commission charge. For example, you bought 100 shares of stock for $15 per share. You have received 4 dividend payments of 25 cents per share and sold the shares for $20. Stock commissions were $7.

Add the dividends received to the current or sold value of the stock, then subtract the amount paid for the stock. Using the example data: You received $2,000 for the stock less a $7 commission. Total dividends were $100, for a subtotal of $2,093. Subtract a cost of $1,500 plus $7 to get $586 of total gain on the stock.

Divide the calculated gain amount by the initial cost of the stock shares. For the example, the $586 is divided by $1,507 -- the share cost plus commission -- for a result of 0.3889.

Multiply the result times 100 to convert to a percentage gain, and to get the percent return for the period you held the stock. The example stock had a holding period return of 38.9 percent.

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The calculated return is pretax. Dividends and capital gains would be taxed separately, affecting your after-tax return on the stock. If the value of the stock has declined, the resulting return will come back as a negative number, indicating a loss.

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