If you’ve ever watched a financial news program or visited a website that covers the stock market, you might notice an endlessly cycling parade of numbers, symbols and abbreviations. These collectively make up a stock ticker, which provides snapshots of activity in the stock market. Knowing how to read and understand a stock ticker is crucial to following the movements of the market.What Is a Stock Ticker?
A stock ticker shows price changes for stocks throughout the day. They list the company’s symbol, the number of shares at the trading price and if the price has gone up and down since the market closed the day before.
Once a stock ticker was an actual physical item, a piece of paper spit out by a machine with an update on stock activity. Paper stock tickers long ago vanished in favor of electronic, real-time updates that can be read on TVs, computers and mobile phone apps. (Ticker-tape parades are so named because they originally used paper ticker tape; now they use confetti or shredded paper.)
Just like the original paper version, today’s stock ticker is a snapshot of how different stocks are performing at a given moment. It can be useful whether you own shares of the stock or you’re curious about the performance of a market index (like, say, the S&P 500). In any case, the ticker snapshot will tell you the volume that stock is trading at, whether the price is up or down from the day before and by how much.
Bear in mind that any particular ticker you examine has a short shelf life. The information will certainly change by the next time that stock’s performance is highlighted. The ticker is a quick dispatch that tells you the current price of the stock or index; whether that price is up or down; and how much volatility it’s currently experiencing.What the Stock Ticker Tells You
A stock ticker might look something like the following example:
GOOG 12.4M 1665 ^ 12.50
In addition to showing the change amount in dollars and cents, a stock ticker might also show by what percentage the price has changed. This important, because a price change of, say, $10 is much more significant for a stock trading at $50 than for one trading at $500.
Aside from the letters and numbers on the screen, you’ll also want to pay attention to color. It can instantly tell you whether the change for a particular stock is higher or lower.
Not by a long shot. Shares in tens of thousands of companies worldwide are traded every day. There aren’t enough news channels and apps to load updates on them all to stock tickers and it also isn’t necessary. Most stocks don’t experience much volatility and most interest a fairly select group of investors. As such, a stock ticker will generally include a few key exchanges; some of the most popular companies; and ones that have seen unusual activity that day.
If you’d like to see the ticker symbol and information for a particular stock that isn’t big or volatile enough to show up on the day’s ticker, many financial news websites will allow you to look it up to see live data.Where to Find a Stock Ticker
There are many sites that provide stock tickers these days, most of them in the financial news space. NASDAQ and the New York Stock Exchange’s websites feature regular updates of their own index and major stocks, with interfaces that are easy to use. You can also find stock tickers on many major cable news networks.
Depending on how you invest, you might be able to track your investments straight from your phone with built-in or downloadable stocks apps providing customizeable stock tickers.Bottom Line
With a little practice, deciphering stock tickers will be as automatic reading the weather report. They use a handy shorthand that can help you get comfortable with the language and focus of stock indexes. If you are eager to learn more about how the markets work, stock tickers become a good jump-off point.Tips for Investing
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