Stock Basics: How To Read a Stock Table/Quote
Any financial paper has stock quotes that will look something like the image
Columns 1 &
2: 52-Week Hi and Low - These
are the highest and lowest prices at which a stock has traded over the previous
52 weeks (one year). This typically does not include the previous day's trading.
Column 3: Company Name & Type of Stock - This column lists the name
of the company. If there are no special symbols or letters following the name,
it is common stock. Different symbols imply different classes of shares. For
example, "pf" means the shares are preferred stock.
4: Ticker Symbol -
This is the unique alphabetic name which identifies
the stock. If you watch financial TV, you have
seen the ticker tape move across the screen,
quoting the latest prices alongside this symbol.
If you are looking for stock quotes online,
you always search for a company by the ticker
Column 5: Dividend Per Share - This indicates the annual dividend payment
per share. If this space is blank, the company does not currently pay out
Column 6: Dividend Yield - This states the percentage return on the
dividend, calculated as annual dividends per share divided by price per share.
Column 7: Price/Earnings Ratio - This is calculated by dividing the
current stock price by earnings per share from the last four quarters. For more
detail on how to interpret this, see our P/E Ratio tutorial.
Column 8: Trading Volume - This figure shows the total number of shares
traded for the day, listed in hundreds. To get the actual number traded, add
"00" to the end of the number listed.
Column 9 & 10: Day High & Low - This indicates the price range at
which the stock has traded at throughout the day. In other words, these are the
maximum and the minimum prices that people have paid for the stock.
Column 11: Close - The close is the last trading price recorded when the
market closed on the day. If the closing price is up or down more than 5% than
the previous day's close, the entire listing for that stock is bold-faced. Keep
in mind, you are not guaranteed to get this price if you buy the stock the next
day because the price is constantly changing (even after the exchange is closed
for the day). The close is merely an indicator of past performance and except in
extreme circumstances serves as a ballpark of what you should expect to pay.
Column 12: Net Change - This is the dollar value change in the stock
price from the previous day's closing price. When you hear about a stock being
"up for the day," it means the net change was positive.
Quotes on the Internet
Nowadays, it's far
more convenient for most to get stock quotes off the Internet. This method is
superior because most sites update throughout the day and give you more
information, news, charting, research, etc.
To get quotes, simply enter the ticker symbol into the quote box of any major
financial site like Yahoo Finance,
CBS Marketwatch, or MSN
Moneycentral. The example below shows a quote for Microsoft (MSFT) from
Yahoo Finance. Interpreting the data is exactly the same as with the newspaper.
You can find definitions for the additional information boxes like EPS, or PEG,
in our dictionary.