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People who read the business or finance section of the newspaper are becoming more and more common. In fact, it seems like just about everyone is doing it these days. One could almost argue that the business section of the newspaper has also become the most trendy section. And for good reasons since not everyone can understand the rows after rows of numbers that crowd the pages of the business section. Furthermore most of us think that only experienced businessmen can understand all those signs and numbers that are the trademark of all financial news
The truth is different. Those numbers are really very simple to understand! Each one of them represent one specific piece of information that make up a “quote.” Indeed, a stock quote is simply a set of numbers each reflecting one aspect of the company’s price. In order to understand it, we will simply take an example a break it into simple pieces.
Stock quote for company XYZ inc. (just for the sake of example.)
Last 74 Change - 4
Open 76 %change -4%
High 78 Low 73
Bid 73.75 Ask 74.25
52 week high/low 90/35 Volume 18M
P/E ratio 93 Exchange Nasdaq

This is a typical quote for a company called XYZ. The first thing to point out is that all the numbers are in dollars. All the numbers represent the price fluctuation of this one particular stock.
** “Last” represent the last price at which someone traded this stock. In this case, the last price of the day way $74 which means this the price that you would have to pay right now if you wanted to buy a share of XYZ.

** “change and % change” represent the, as their name states, the price change since yesterday’s closing price. In this case the stock price dropped by $4 meaning that yesterday you would have bought it at $78 rather than $74 today!

** “ open”, “high” and “low” simply represent the opening price, the highest and lowest price of the stock on this particular day.

** “ask” and “bid” represent the price that buyer are bidding for the stock, and the price that sellers are asking for the stock.

** “the 52 week high/low” describes the price fluctuations of the stock over a one year period

** “volume” tells us how many of this particular stock has been traded on this particular day. In our case there has been 14 million shares traded today.

** “P/E ration” which means Price Earnings ratio is one of the most important tools to evaluate a stock. Simply put, it represents the price at which the stock is trading in regards to the estimated next year earnings. In our case the stock is trading at 93 times next years earnings... without getting into the economics implication, I must point out that the smaller the P/E is, the better and less risky is the stock. In our case. The P/E is quite high..

** “exchange” simply tells us what exchange this stock is traded on. Nasdaq, NYSE, AMEX are the biggest Us exchanges.

As we can see, it is not too complicated to understand those numbers. And it makes it even easier when one thinks of a stock price as an auction where bidders and sellers try to get the best deal. The stock quote is simply a summary of the “daily auctions”.
Finally, i must point out that each newspaper and quote service has its own format for publishing this information. However, these numbers are the same everywhere, simply displayed differently.