Many of us glaze over the rows and rows of numbers wondering what it all means. Let’s go over some of the basics to increase your understanding of the stock tables and the role they play in investing.
The stock tables are found in mostly all daily newspapers. There are abbreviated or extensive listings depending on the newspaper you are reading. The most extensive reporting can be found in publications like Barron’s™, Investors Business Daily™ and the Wall Street Journal™ to name a few. Local of papers will have a less extensive listing. Each publication will have an explanation box that will review the coding system for that publication. It is best to check that each time you read the paper because the reports can be different from day to day.
Part of the reason why the tables are difficult to read at first is the fact that company names are abbreviated. As time goes on this becomes easier because of your increased familiarity with all of the reporting information. Another source of difficulty that was made easier a few years ago was the switch from fractional reporting to decimal reporting. Currently, they are using a decimal system like our dollars and cents system without the dollar sign.
Let’s review some of the basics in regards to the information found in the columns of the financial section of the paper.
- Hi: the high price for that stock during the past 52 weeks
- Lo or Low: the low price for the stock during the past 52 weeks
- Stock: the abbreviated name of the company
- Sym or Symbol: the ticker symbol for the company, this is sometimes referred to as the call letters
- Div or dividend: the current dollar amount of the annual dividend per share. The dividend is income paid to a stockholder of the company
- Yld% or Yield: the dividend of the stock as a percentage of stock price (Div divided by Close)
- PE or Price Earnings Ratio: the price per share divided by earnings per share. PE is a significant measure because it measures the value of stocks. It also measures how people feel about a stock and whether or not they feel the company has strong growth potential
- Vol 100s or Volume 100s: trading volume or the number of shares that were traded that day by hundreds. 1050 means 105,000 shares traded
- Hi: the highest price the stock sold for that day. Note: “u” means this was a 52-week high.
- Lo or Low: the lowest price the stock sold for that day. Now ”d” means this was a 52-week low
- Close or Last: the price per share when the trading day ended. Note the markets generally close at different times depending on the market and if it is a holiday
- Net Chg or Net Change: the amount the closing price moved up or down from the prior day’s closing price.
There are different exchanges that report in the newspapers. These include the NYSE (New York Stock Exchange), which is an actual auction of stocks. A specialist on the floor of the exchange takes and fills orders. The NASDAQ is an electronic trading platform where stocks are filled on a bid and ask price and it is all done electronically via computer. The AMEX or American Stock Exchange is a smaller exchange that has a somewhat less stringent entry requirement then the NYSE. It also deals in options and American Depository Receipts. Also found in addition to the alphabetical listings of stocks are the summary boxes, which highlight items like: top performers, or gainers, biggest losers and most actively traded stocks. These are the companies getting the most action depending on the market for that day.
People often ask, “What did the market do today?” they are wondering if the market was up or down for that day. This is reflective of the performance and strength of the market. We all remember the market in 1999, which wildly went up and reached higher highs every day. Then the slow down turn of the market that begun in March of 2000 and continued to slide until 2003.
Currently we are using indexes to measure the market strengths and weaknesses. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index (S & P) is perhaps the most widely used measure to date as well as the NASDAQ Composite Index and the AMEX Index.
Hopefully this brief review will help you to understand the basics of the stock tables. Start by reviewing the information on a daily basis and then you will be able to understand more as time goes on.
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