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A stock market quote is basically a chart that tells you everything you need to know about a stock’s price before you buy a share. Stock quotes are updated constantly as market movements and thousands of buying and selling traders shift the value of the stock.
Before you purchase your first stock, you’ll need to be able to read a quote. Understanding the different parts of a stock quote and knowing where to go for reliable pricing information can mean the difference between a profitable trade and a missed opportunity.
Luckily, there are a number of reliable sources for stock market quotes online that offer real-time data you can access for free. Bookmark one of these sites for free quotes to enhance your trading success.
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First, know tow to read a stock quote
To read a stock quote, you’ll need to understand what the various numbers mean. Though this may seem like an overwhelming task at first, the truth is that most of the information you’ll see on your quotes aren’t immediately crucial when buying or selling.
The most important numbers you’ll need to understand are the following:
The most important number for stock buyers is the ask price. The ask is the lowest price at which a seller is willing to sell a single share of the stock to you.
When you are placing a market order, your broker will automatically get the most “bang for your buck” by buying at the ask, or the lowest-selling trader.
Ask prices frequently move throughout the trading day—if more sellers are looking to get rid of their stock, the ask price will go down. If more buyers are looking to get their hands on the stock than there are traders willing to sell, you can expect the ask price to rise.
The bid price is the highest price that a buyer is willing to pay for a single share of stock. If you are looking to sell your stocks, the bid price will be more important to you than the ask. Just like the ask price, you can expect the bid price of every stock to fluctuate throughout the day.
The last price is the most recent price in which the stock has been traded. This is not the price that you will pay if you’re looking to buy—the ask price is the current price.
The volume is the number of shares of a given stock that have traded hands that day. The higher the volume, the more liquid a stock is; a highly liquid stock can be bought and sold easily and will show a high daily volume
The dividend is the amount of money that a company will pay to shareholders on a regular basis, typically either annually or semi-annually. The dividend-price is listed per share.
For example, if a stock quote lists that it is paying $1 in dividends and you purchase 100 shares of stock, you can expect to see a $100 return on your investment annually. Companies are not required by law to pay out dividends—so if this space is blank, it means that the company is currently not offering dividends.
A beta is a statistical measurement of a stock’s movement when compared to the market’s overall movement. A stock that has a beta of 1 or greater typically means that the stock moves in the direction of the market more rapidly—whether the market is moving in a positive direction or a negative one.
A beta that’s between 0 and 1 means that the stock moves more slowly than the market, and a negative beta means that the stock is moving in the opposite direction as the market.
Red flags for free stock quots
There are plenty of sites that offer free stock quotes, but how can you tell if a site is legitimate? Three red flags include:
- Laggy data. The price of a stock can change at a moment’s notice. The most reliable stock quote providers aim to update their data in real-time to provide the most accurate information available. Beware of sites that lag on their updates—a delay of even just a few minutes can result in overpaying or unreliable data.
- A website with a bias. The most reliable quotes are those that come from unbiased sources. Beware of websites that have corporate sponsorships, as they may have an incentive to delay their quote data to suit the best interests of their advertisers.
- Desktop-only compatibility. If you use a mobile app from trading, you’ll also want to keep a mobile-compatible quote source on-hand for on-the-go trading. Test out a website’s compatibility on your phone before you bookmark it—sites that lag, reload multiple times, or have not formatted their website to be viewable on a mobile browser will be of little use to you if you frequently trade using an app.
The best sources for free online stock quotes
NASDAQ.com is the website associated with the world’s second largest stock market exchange on the world, the NASDAQ. NASDAQ.com contains free stock quotes for almost all publicly-traded corporations in the United States, and the website updates its data in real-time. NASDAQ.com is also a comprehensive website for stock market news and offers a section of company news and announcements for each of the stocks listed.
NASDAQ’s mobile website is also well-designed and responsive, updating charts in real time without reloading or crashing, making it a reliable source of information for mobile traders.
As its name suggests, FreeRealTime.com is a free online source for instantaneous stock market quotes. FreeRealTime.com is useful for much more than just quotes—the site also offers an unbiased and comprehensive review of both the domestic and international market on a daily basis.
The website is constantly updated with the latest news, and one of its most unique offerings is its “morning briefs,” which give a distilled picture of the day’s top trending stocks, stocks that have made unusual movements since the close of the market the night before and overnight changes in price that traders need to know about.
Traders who have already opened a stock portfolio can take advantage of the site’s new portfolio tracker that serves instant quotes and market news throughout the days associated with the stocks held in the trader’s portfolio. Just create a free account, add stocks you have in your profile, and FreeRealTime.com will compile data on your unique portfolio.
Stock market quotes are just a single picture of the value of a corporation—as every smart trader knows, understanding the overall market, the leadership behind the world’s largest economies and companies’ plans for innovating and moving forward in an ever-changing market are just as important in the long-term planning as a stock’s value.
CNBC is a comprehensive source for not only stock quotes, but market news as well. The company offers free stock quotes on nearly every publicly traded company and also offers market indexes for both domestic and international markets.
CNBC even allows you to check out futures, forex, and options trending news and data as well. Prefer to hear your news instead of reading it? CNBC also offers its “CNBC TV” section for free; traders can watch interviews, news segments and clips from market-oriented talk shows like Mad Money and Squawk on the Street.
4. Yahoo Finance
Yahoo Finance is an online source for free stock market quotes and historical charts that you can use to formulate your trading strategies.
The site also features a daily roundup of stock “gainers” and “losers” that have made unusual movements in either a positive or negative direction, respectively. Looking for insider information? Yahoo Finance offers watchlists that list the stocks that hedge fund managers are buying and selling most on that particular day.
If you’re looking to invest in cryptocurrencies, Yahoo Finance also offers lists of the most volatile cryptocurrencies, those that have been bought and sold most often in the last 24 hours, and the currencies that have been added and removed from watchlists most often.
No matter what industry you’re interested in, chances are that Yahoo Finance also offers a watchlist that will give you’re a quick picture of each of your stock choices.
FinancialContent.com is a basic and easy-to-navigate website that offers free current and historical stock data.
You can quickly search for the tickers of stocks in your profile or you can view an overall market data chart from the three major stock markets of the United States, the S&P 500, or the value of Bitcoin.
The website cuts a lot of the frills featured on some of the major news resources on this list, but it also offers a clean layout that’s accurate and perfect for the non-tech-savvy or those who have already chosen a reliable news source.
If you own a publicly-traded company or a stock news website, FinancialContent.com also offers a number of paid tools to enhance your website, including custom stock tickers and widgets to compliment your business.
Having a quick source for free stock quotes can help you make faster moves as a trader. However, your broker likely offers free stock quotes as well. Haven’t decided on a stockbroker yet? Check out Benzinga’s list of the best online stock brokerage accounts today to get started.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the beta?
The beta measures the stock’s movement compared to the markets. A reading above 1 indicates that it moves much faster than the markets, either up or down.
Which websites offer the best free stock quotes?
There are several to include: the CBOE, NASDAQ and CNBC.com.