How to Read a Streaming Stock Quote

by Daria Kelly Uhlig

Streaming stock quotes are the digital-age version of the mechanical ticker-tape stock quotes that first appeared in New York City in 1867. Streaming quotes are still referred to as ticker tape, and they contain the same information. Although many different companies provide streaming tickers, they all contain the same basic data. Many different websites offer streaming stock quotes, and there are even ticker toolbars you can add to your computer. Cable news and finance channels also stream stock quotes at the bottom of the screen. Understanding how to read streaming quotes allows you to keep up with the market anywhere you have access to a computer or television.

The Ticker

A tick is any change in the price of a stock or other security. Ticker tape shows each tick, or change, as it records every stock-exchange transaction on a tape, which is a narrow strip of paper. Ticker tape was time-delayed by 15 to 20 minutes until 1996, when the first real-time electronic ticker became available. This is the familiar streaming ticker that cable news programs run at the bottom of the TV screen.

What the Ticker Shows

One ticker shows streaming stock quotes for one stock exchange. The major U.S. exchanges are the New York Stock Exchange, the American Stock Exchange and NASDAQ. You can get an idea of which ticker you're looking at by taking note of the number of letters in the stock symbol. NASDAQ symbols have four letters for U.S. stocks and five letters for foreign stocks. The New York Stock Exchange and the American Stock Exchange use three-letter stock symbols. If you stream tickers on your computer, you can run several at once. Cable news stations often show multiple tickers at the same time by stacking them at the bottom of the screen.

Understanding Streaming Stock Quotes

Streaming stock quotes have less information than newspaper stock quotes do. While newspaper stock pages help you do more in-depth research, streaming stock quotes help you make immediate decisions. The stock symbol tells you what stock is being reported. It's an abbreviation of the company's name. Following the symbol is the number of shares traded. The price is the most recent purchase price. Following the price is the change direction symbol, which is an arrow that shows whether the price is higher or lower than the last price paid before trading ended the previous day. The change amount shows the amount of the change. For example, for a stock price of 10, or $10, for a stock that closed at $11 the previous day, the change direction symbol would be a downward-pointing arrow representing a downward direction change. The change amount would be 1, or $1, for the drop from $11 to $10.

Limitations of Streaming Tickers

The ticker that scrolls across your television screen or browser window shows a limited number of quotes at any one time. Because of the large number of stocks included in the ticker, it takes time before the update of a particular stock quote appears. The result is a delay in the time it takes for you to see the updated information. In addition, many streaming services delay information by 15 or 20 minutes, although your broker’s website or stock exchange sites may allow you to track securities in real time.

About the Author

Daria Kelly Uhlig began writing professionally for websites in 2008. She is a licensed real-estate agent who specializes in resort real estate rentals in Ocean City, Md. Her real estate, business and finance articles have appeared on a number of sites, including Motley Fool, The Nest and more. Uhlig holds an associate degree in communications from Centenary College.

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