The business sections of most daily newspapers include stock pages with information about the performance of stocks and the indices that measure market performance. The pages are published on business days, and they're instantly recognizable by their tiny "agate" type and tables of confusing graphs, figures and abbreviations. Although some newspapers include more extensive data than others, learning the basics of reading a stock market page will allow you to track investments you already own and help you evaluate those you're considering purchasing.
1. View the index graphs. These might include Dow Jones Averages indices such as The Dow Jones Industrial Average and averages for specific industries. Your newspaper likely shows The S&P 500 and the NASDAQ Composite as well. Each index traces the movement of a group of related stocks. The indices serve as indicators of market trends.
2. Read the stock quotes. Information in the stock quotes is spread across several columns. How many columns, and the specific information included, varies by newspaper. The 52-week high and low are the highest and lowest prices of a particular stock over the past year. The ticker symbol is an abbreviation of the company's name. The yield is a percentage that reflects the dividend on each share of stock. The price-to-earnings ratio divides the stock's price by its past-year earnings to assess whether it's a good value. The volume is the number of shares traded on the day on which the quote is reporting, expressed in hundreds. The next high and low, as reported in newspapers such as “The Wall Street Journal,” show the highest and lowest trading prices for the day on which the quote is reporting. An arrow or triangle represents a record high or low. The closing price is the price at which the stock last traded before trading ended for the day. The net change shows the difference between that day's closing price and the previous day's closing price. The close price is in bold print when the net change is 5 percent or more.
3. Examine the footnotes. The notes are abbreviations that give additional information about the stock and about the previous day's trading. Definitions for the abbreviations appear on the page. Common abbreviations include "pf" for preferred stock, which pays a set rate of return; "v" for when the previous day's trading was stopped; and "z" when the number of shares traded is the actual number, not the number in hundreds.
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