What Is a Stock Market Quote?

How to Read a Quote and Understand Its Components

Stockmarket data in newspaper, close-up (blue toned)
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A stock market quote gives the price and other essential information about a particular stock and its recent trading activity (just how recent depends on the quote provider) as quoted on an exchange. This data might include its bid and ask price, trading volume, yield, or 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 live stock data in real time. You can follow the quote during the trading day and watch it change from minute to minute or even second to second.

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 Do the Numbers Mean?

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 abbreviated format.

  • Open: The stock's opening price.
  • 52-Week High and Low (or Range): These two numbers record the highest and lowest price the stock traded at during the last 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): The stock name, often abbreviated, and the stock 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 when a company pays a portion of its profits to its shareholders. Unless noted in a footnote, this reflects the annual dividend based on the last regular disbursement.
  • Yield Percentage (Yld%): The yield percentage is the dividends or other disbursements paid to stockholders as a percentage of the stock’s price.
  • Price to Earnings Ratio (PE): The Price to Earnings Ratio, or PE, is the price of the stock divided by its earnings per share (EPS).
  • Sales Volume (Sales 100s): 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 1959, that means sales volume for that stock was 195,900 for the day.
  • High: Highest price paid for the stock during the previous day.
  • Low: Lowest price paid for the stock during the previous day.
  • Last (or Close): The last price the stock traded on that day. It does not mean that is the price the stock will open at that price the next day.
  • Change: 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 over 10 percent.
  • 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 dividend, 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 one to 20 minutes or more, enabling them to sell truly live quotes at a premium.

Add stocks you're interested in to 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.