If you're new to investing--or just new to monitoring your investments--one of the easiest ways to keep track of your holdings (stocks, bonds and mutual funds) is to read the stock market pages in your newspaper.
Get to know the layout of the stock tables. For the NYSE tables, there are several columns of information. Once you are familiar with the layout, you'll be able to locate and read the information you are seeking with ease.
Locate the name and ticker symbol of the company. This information is in the second and third columns of the table, and the companies are displayed in alphabetical order. The ticker symbol is then listed in the next column. If there are no symbols following the company name, it is considered a common stock. The Wall Street Journal provides a listing of symbol definitions in the footnotes section of their publication.
Check the daily stats for your company. These figures are found in last four columns--Hi, Lo, Close and Net Chg. These display the previous day's high and low trade prices, the closing price for that day and the net change (the results of that day's price compared with the price from the previous day). If a stock has experienced more than a 5% fluctuation in price from the day previous, the entire line will be printed in bold-faced type.
Evaluate the performance of your stocks by looking at the PE (Price-Earnings) Ratio in column seven, which signifies a stock's relative value and performance. This figure comes from dividing a stock's price by its company's per-share earnings during the past four quarters. A higher PE ratio indicates optimism about the stock's future; however, this figure also includes a company's future growth prospects, its industry, accounting practices and the company's age (start-up versus established business).
Find the annual dividend paid per share by consulting column five--Dividends. Dividend payments for preferred shares usually rest at a fixed amount. Dividend payments for common shares can vary with the company's financial health, as determined in regular evaluations performed by company directors.
Consider the stock's trading volume (Column 8). Volume is the total number of shares traded during a day. This figure is listed in hundreds (148=14,800), unless preceded by a lowercase "z" (z338), which indicates the actual number of shares that have been traded. Stocks with large volume surges, compared with their usual activity, are underlined.
Locate your NASDAQ stocks by consulting the Issue column. Stocks are listed alphabetically, using abbreviated names rather than ticker symbols.
Look at the volume of trading for your share in column three, listed as hundreds (125=12,500).
Notice any dividends paid by looking at column two.
Check column four for the final trading price during the previous day's trading.
See the final column to note the change from the currently published day's trading price to the previous day's.
Stock prices are printed as fractions. Divide the denominator of the fraction by the numerator to find the amount in cents. For example: 45 3/18: 3 divided by 18= 0.16666666667. 45 3/18 equals a share price of $45.17.
Grab a magnifying glass for easier reading. You may also want to use a straight edge such as a ruler or piece of paper in order to mark the line you are reading.
Make a cheat sheet on an index card of all the symbols you want to research on a regular basis. Keep it with you, in your wallet or handbag, for reference when you are reading on the go.
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