What Is a Stock Market Quote?

Definition & Examples of Stock Quotes

Woman looking at stock quotes on monitors and her phone
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A stock market quote gives the price and other essential information about a particular stock and its recent trading activity as quoted on an exchange. This data might include its bid and ask price, trading volume, yield, and other information.

Although you can still find stock market quotes in some newspapers and magazines, traders are increasingly getting their quotes online, even paying a premium to get stock data in real time. In order to read a stock market quote, it's important to understand the different parts, numbers, and abbreviations that can make up a typical quote.

What Is a Stock Quote?

Stock quotes give information about a particular stock's recent trading activity on a given exchange. How close this data is to real time will depend on the exchange and where you are looking for the information. During the trading day, you can usually see both the prices buyers are willing to pay (bids) and the prices sellers are offering (asks), along with a range of other information. These quotes enable buyers and sellers to find each other and make trades.

Depending on market conditions, a stock's price can move quite a bit in any direction on a given day. If you're looking to buy a stock, be sure you know the live price or use specific order tyes such as buy-limit orders to guard against paying more than you're comfortable paying.

How Stock Quotes Work

Both buyers and sellers require data about a particular stock to make a decision and execute a trade. At the very least they'll need the name of the stock, its ticker symbol, agreed-upon price, and number of shares to buy or sell.

Whether you're trading on the New York Stock Exchange, the NASDAQ, or another stock exchange, a given stock quote will show some or all of the following information, often in an abbreviated format:

  • Open: This is the stock's opening price. This and all prices are quoted to hundredths of a cent.
  • 52-week high and low (or range): These two numbers record the highest and lowest price at which the stock traded during the previous 52-week period but does not include the previous trading day. The numbers may be adjusted for stock payouts or large dividends.
  • Stock symbol (SYM): This is the stock name, often abbreviated, and the stock ticker symbol. You can find the stock symbol for a given company on many financial websites by simply typing the name of the company; the site will return its symbol.
  • Dividend (DIV): A dividend is a portion of profits paid to a company's shareholders. Unless noted in a footnote, this reflects the annual price per share based on the last regular disbursement.
  • Yield percentage (Yld%): The yield percentage expresses the dividends and any other disbursements paid to stockholders as a percentage of the stock’s price.
  • Earnings per share (EPS): This is a company's net earnings divided by its total number of shares. A higher number indicates greater profitability.
  • Price-to-earnings ratio (P/E): The price-to-earnings ratio is the price of the stock divided by its EPS. Ths number helps investors compare stock prices more directly to other companies.
  • Sales volume (Sales 100s): This shows the total amount of stock sold that day expressed in hundreds. In other words, sales volume is expressed with two zeros missing. For example, if the number reported is 1,959, that means sales volume for that stock was 195,900 for the day.
  • High: This is the highest price paid for the stock during the previous day.
  • Low: This is the lowest price paid for the stock during the previous day.
  • Last (or close): This is the last price the stock traded on that day. It does not mean that is the price at which the stock will open the next day.
  • Change: This describes the difference between the last trade and the previous day's price.
  • Year-to-date percentage change (YTD% CHG): This number is the stock price percentage change for the calendar year. The percentage is adjusted for stock splits and dividends of more than 10%.
  • Net change (CHG): The net change is calculated from the previous day’s close, so you are comparing what the stock closed at today to what it closed at yesterday.

You may also notice some footnotes throughout the listings. These point out any number of extraordinary circumstances, such as new highs or lows, the first day of trading, unusual dividends, and so forth.

What a Stock Quote Can Tell You

Once you understand how to read a stock quote, you can begin to make educated decisions regarding investments. With the data you gather, you can learn how to value a company and even make predictions about a stock's performance. You'll get to know how to read a stock's volatility and better gauge your risk when investing.

You can follow a stock's price throughout the day, although you should be aware that the quotes you see on many free internet sites are delayed. Data providers may delay quotes by 20 minutes or more, enabling them to sell truly live quotes at a premium.

Put stocks in which you're interested on a watchlist and track them over time. Although past performance does not indicate future results, tracking your picks helps you learn to identify stocks that meet your trading criteria. It also allows you to detect patterns that can help you in your trades.

Key Takeaways

  • A stock quote shows the current price of a stock based on recent activity on its exchange.
  • It includes a wide range of additional information to help investors judge a stock's profit potential.
  • Depending on where you are getting your stock quote, prices may not be quoted in real-time.

Article Sources

  1. U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. "Stock Quotes." Accessed July 7, 2020.

  2. U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. "Price-earnings (P/E) Ratio." Accessed July 8, 2020.