Learn to Read Stock Market Quotes

The stock market can be a mysterious thing to many people. In fact, while so many of us are invested in it through our 401(k), IRA or other tax-deferred investment account, even the most simple quotes in the stock market are like Greek to us. People are surprisingly careless with their finances after they work so hard to make the money and it only makes sense to be able to interpret stock quotes. So what do all those numbers mean?

There are several values on a typical stock quote and while they may seem cryptic, they’re really not that complicated. Some of the most common and important values are:


The price is the last price at which that stock traded. It might surprise you to learn that this is not necessarily the price at which you can purchase or sell the stock, this is due to the bid and ask values which we describe next.


The bid is the highest price anyone is currently offering for that stock. This is usually the price you will get when you are selling the stock if you sell it right that instant.


The ask is the lowest price at which anyone is offering to sell the stock. If you buy the stock this is usually the price you will pay. The difference between the bid and he ask price is called the spread.


This value is the last price at which the stock traded on the previous trading day. It is often referred to as the ‘Previous Close’ during trading, or ‘Closing Price.’


This value is the stock’s change from the previous day’s close. More precisely it is the difference between the last trade and the previous close.


This is the first price at which a stock trades during the day.

Day’s Range

This is the range in which the stock has traded during the day, the lowest to highest prices of the day.

Yearly Range

The ‘yearly range’ or ’52 week range’ is the highest and lowest the stock has traded in the previous year.


Volume is the number of shares that have traded in a given day. This number will generally increase throughout the day as more and more trades are executed.

Average Volume

This is the average number of shares that are generally bought and sold in a typical day. Usually the number will be designated for how long that average applies. So you might see “Average Volume (10 day)” or “Average Volume (3 month)”

Market Cap

The “Market Cap” or “Market Capitalization” of a company is how much all of its currently outstanding stock is worth. In other words this is the price times the number of shares that have been issued in the company. To think about it another way this is theoretically the price of the company.


This is how much the company has paid out in dividends in the trailing year. Dividends are payments made to shareholders at specified times, to reward stockholders. This does not mean the company will continue to pay this, but they generally do not like to cut dividends.

Dividend Yield

This is the amount of the dividend, divided by the price of the stock. It tells you how much you would expect to make if the dividend remains the same for the next year as does the stock price. Neither of those is very likely to happen however.


“EPS” or “Earnings Per Share” is how much money the company has profited in the last twelve months. This does not mean they necessarily made that much cash and it is doubtful this will be the amount of a dividend. This number simply indicates how much the company’s net worth has changed in the last twelve months.


“P/E Ratio” or “Price/Earnings Ratio” is the ratio of the price of the stock to its EPS. It is generally considered a good sign for this ratio to be lower, since this indicates more earnings per dollar of price of the stock. For example, if a company has a price of $10 per share and $2 earnings per share, it would have a P/E ratio of 5.


While these are certainly not the only possible quotes that can be present on a stock quote, they are many of the most common numbers and can give you insight into how to interpret any other numbers you encounter.

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