How to Set Up a Watch List for Stocks

Before you invest, spend some time watching your stock picks.

Before you invest, spend some time watching your stock picks.

When you think you know what stocks you want, you may be anxious to purchase immediately. But even if you’ve done research, it may not be time to buy yet. An online watch list lets you enter your stocks and watch how they behave. This list is an alphabetical column of the stocks you selected, with prices by each one. You can see the prices change during the trading day. Watching these price changes helps you get to know your stock picks better. Chances are that after watching for a while, you’ll eliminate some that you were certain would do well.

Sign up for a portfolio service. Many sites allow you to set up a watch list. They often call this a portfolio even though you don’t actually have to own the stock to create one. You may have to sign up and give some basic information but you don’t have to pay a fee. You can customize your portfolio by giving it a name. Remember your password. Each time you log in, the site will remember you and display the same watch list you set up previously.

Look up stock symbols. Every stock has a symbol made up three or four letters that you use when getting quotes, doing research and creating a watch list. If you don’t know your stock symbol, the same site that let you create the watch list, provides you with a symbol lookup feature. You can enter the company’s name and get the symbol this way. For example, the symbol for Bank of America is BAC.

Enter all of your stock symbols into your watch list. During the trading day, you will immediately see real-time prices changing for each stock. If the market is closed, you’ll see the price of the last trade. You’ll also see volume percentage change for each stock. This is simply the percentage the stock moved up or down during the last trading session or the current one.

Sort your list. Watch lists show stocks alphabetically by default. Click on the ”percentage change“ column to see which of the stocks on your list are moving the fastest. This can give you some clues to what other investors think of your stocks. Keep in mind that a percentage change can be up or down. Up movements generally appear in green, and down movements generally show up in red. If you see a stock consistently making big moves up or down, it may be starting a trend.


  • Limit your list to a dozen or so stocks so that you can pay close attention to the movements of each one.

About the Author

Kevin Johnston writes for Ameriprise Financial, the Rutgers University MBA Program and Evan Carmichael. He has written about business, marketing, finance, sales and investing for publications such as "The New York Daily News," "Business Age" and "Nation's Business." He is an instructional designer with credits for companies such as ADP, Standard and Poor's and Bank of America.

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