How Do I Read a Stock Ticker?

To follow stock movements throughout the day, you'll need to make sense of the stock ticker.

To follow stock movements throughout the day, you'll need to make sense of the stock ticker.

Turn on any financial news program and take a look at the bottom of the screen. To a novice stock watcher, the series of letters, numbers and arrows may appear to be a secret code. This mix of symbols, however, serves a much greater purpose to those interested in keeping an eye on market movements. With a little practice, even novice stock watchers can unravel this financial mystery known as the stock ticker, which records transactions as they occur on the stock market exchange floor. You can use the ticker tape to track adjustments, up or down, in the price of a stock market security.

Read the ticker tape from left to right. Start with the ticker symbol designator, a group of letters used to identify the corporation, and continue to the right. Identify the five segments of the ticker tape: the ticker symbol, number of shares traded, trading price, direction of change and change amount.

Identify the company represented by the ticker symbol. Use the Internet and visit websites hosted by the New York Stock Exchange or NASDAQ for help with identifying corporations. Visit the NYSE site for ticker symbols containing three letters and the NASDAQ site for ticker symbols containing four letters.

Translate the information related to the shares of stock. Look for the number of shares traded, which is immediately following the ticker symbol. Pay attention to the price at which those shares traded. Note the general direction of the stock since the previous day as indicated by the directional arrow, pointing up or down. The change in market price is the final designator in the five-segment ticker string.

Look for color-coded directional arrows to quickly assess the performance of a particular stock. Green arrows represent a gain over the previous day’s close; red arrows indicate a drop since the previous day's close, and blue or white arrows represent no change.

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