The stock tables in major business publications such as The Wall Street Journal are loaded with information to help you become a savvy investor — if you know how to interpret them. You need the information in the stock tables to promising investment opportunities and to monitor how your stocks are doing.

Below is a sample stock table. Each item gives you some clues about the current state of affairs for that 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

Updated daily, these tables aren’t the place to start your search for a good stock; they’re usually where your search ends. The stock tables are the place to look when you own a stock or know what you want to buy and you’re just checking to see the most recent price.

52-week high

The column labeled “52-Wk High” gives you the highest price that particular stock has reached in the most recent 52-week period. Knowing this price lets you gauge where the stock is now versus where it has been recently.

SkyHighCorp’s (SHC) stock has been as high as $21.50, whereas its last (most recent) price is $21.25, the number listed in the “Day Last” column. SkyHighCorp’s stock is trading very high right now because it’s hovering right near its overall 52-week high figure.

Now, take a look at DoinBadlyCorp’s (DBC) stock price. It seems to have tumbled big time. Its stock price has had a high in the past 52 weeks of $83, but it’s currently trading at $33.50. Something just doesn’t seem right here. During the past 52 weeks, DBC’s stock price has fallen dramatically.

If you’re thinking about investing in DBC, find out why the stock price has fallen. If the company is strong, it may be a good opportunity to buy stock at a lower price. If the company is having tough times, avoid it. In any case, research the firm and find out why its stock has declined.

52-week low

The column labeled “52-Wk Low” gives you the lowest price that particular stock reached in the most recent 52-week period. Again, this information is crucial to your ability to analyze stock over a period of time. Look at DBC, and you can see that its current trading price of $33.50 in the Day Last column is close to its 52-week low of $33.

Keep in mind that the high and low prices just give you a range of how far that particular stock’s price has moved within the past 52 weeks. They can alert you that a stock has problems, or they can tell you that a stock’s price has fallen enough to make it a bargain. Simply reading the 52-Wk High and 52-Wk Low columns isn’t enough to determine which is happening.