Learn something new every day More Info... by email
A stock quote is a list of prices for stocks. In the stock market, every tradable company's stock quote is published online and in newspapers in an arrangement called a stock table, which investors use to figure out whether they wish to trade a stock. Each stock table contains different data about each company's stock prices, but most contain at least high and low prices for the stock, the closing trading price for the stock, and data about changes in the price of each stock.
In the stock market, the prevailing price of a stock is sometimes called the trading price. When an investor buys or sells a stock, it is called a trade. The trading price of a stock is determined either electronically or by a stock market floor manager using data from asks and bids for each stock to calculate the stock quote. This information is used to determine demand and set prices for trading stock so the stock quote can be made available to investors. Because online stock quote information tends to be published in real time, more investors use online stock tables than those published in print.
The ask is the asking price. When compiled in a stock table, the collective offers for stock for sale are called "asks" or "offers." An ask is essentially the price at which the owner or broker of the stock would like to offer the stock for sale, plus the commission taken by the dealer of the sale. Usually, when an asking price is defined, the amount of stock for sale is also defined by the owner. The "best ask" is the best price available for stock for sale at a given time.
In a stock quote, the bid is the selling price, or the price that an investor will have to pay if he buys a security at that time. The "best bid" is the best offered price for a security. When compiled in a stock table, bids can also be called "sells." This stock quote bid also includes commission for the broker of the transaction.
The difference between the ask and the bid is called the spread. It defines the difference between the price at which buyers wish to buy and the price at which sellers wish to sell. The spread also generally denotes the broker's profit margin on transactions for each stock.
Last is the most recent transaction price, also known as the last trading price. The last transaction at the end of the trading day is known as the closing price. At the beginning of the trading day, the price for a stock is called the opening price, and can differ from the previous day's closing price due to after-hours stock trading and other factors that change the value of the stock while trading is closed.