How to Read Stock Tables
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Parts of a Stock Table: Price to Earnings Ratio, Day Last, and Net Change

Published in major business publications like Investor’s Business Daily, a stock table contains important information you need to track as a current stock owner or explore before you purchase stock from a particular company.

52-Wk High 52-Wk Low Name (Symbol) Div Vol Yld P/E Day Last Net Chg
21.50 8.00 SkyHighCorp (SHC) 3,143 76 21.25 +.25
47.00 31.75 LowDownInc (LDI) 2.35 2,735 5.9 18 41.00 –.50
25.00 21.00 ValueNowInc (VNI) 1.00 1,894 4.5 12 22.00 +.10
83.00 33.00 DoinBadlyCorp (DBC) 7,601 33.50 –.75


The P/E ratio is the ratio between the price of the stock and the company’s earnings. P/E ratios are widely followed and are important barometers of value in the world of stock investing.

The P/E ratio (also called the earnings multiple or just multiple) is frequently used to determine whether a stock is expensive (a good value). Value investors find P/E ratios to be essential to analyzing a stock as a potential investment.

As a general rule, the P/E should be 10 to 20 for large cap or income stocks. For growth stocks, a P/E no greater than 30 to 40 is preferable.

In the P/E ratios reported in stock tables, price refers to the cost of a single share of stock. Earnings refers to the company’s reported earnings per share as of the most recent four quarters. The P/E ratio is the price divided by the earnings.

In the example, VNI has a reported P/E of 12, which is considered a low P/E. Notice how SHC has a relatively high P/E (76). This stock is considered too pricey because you’re paying a price equivalent to 76 times earnings. Also notice that DBC has no available P/E ratio. Usually this lack of a P/E ratio indicates that the company reported a loss in the most recent four quarters.

Day last

The “Day Last” column tells you how trading ended for a particular stock on the day represented by the table. In the example, LDI ended the most recent day of trading at $41. Some newspapers report the high and low for that day in addition to the stock’s ending price for the day.

Net change

The information in the “Net Chg” column answers the question, “How did the stock price end today compared with its price at the end of the prior trading day?”

For example, SHC stock ended the trading day up 25 cents (at $21.25). This column tells you that SHC ended the prior day at $21. VNI ended the day at $22 (up 10 cents), so you can tell that the prior trading day it ended at $21.90.

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