How to Read a Stock Table

Learning how to read stocks by using stock tables to gather information can help you select promising investment opportunities and monitor your stocks’ performance. The stock tables in major business publications, such as The Wall Street Journal and Investor’s Business Daily, are loaded with information that can help you become a savvy investor.

A stock table may look intimidating at first because there is a lot of information present. However, to be confident in how to read stocks, you must be able to digest each data point and extract insights from the stock table (see a sample stock table below). Each column in the chart gives you some clues about the current state of affairs for a particular company to help you make smart investment decisions.

Example stock table
52-Wk High 52-Wk Low Name (Symbol) Div Vol Yld P/E Day Last Net Chg
21.50 8.00 SkyHighCorp (SHC) 3143 76 21.25 +.25
47.00 31/75 LowDownInc (LDI) 2.35 2735 5.7 18 41.00 –.50
25.00 21.00 ValueNowInc (VNI) 1.00 1894 4.5 12 22.00 +.10
83.00 33.00 DoinBadlyCorp (DBC) 7601 33.50 –.75

To properly read stocks, you must first understand what each column in the stock chart means:

  • 52-week high: This column gives you the highest price that particular stock has reached in the most recent 52-week period.

  • 52-week low: This column gives you the lowest price that particular stock has reached in the most recent 52-week period.

  • Name and symbol: This column tells you the company name (usually abbreviated) and the stock symbol assigned to it. Financial tables list stocks in alphabetical order by symbol, and you need to use them in all stock communications.

  • Dividend: A value in this column indicates that payments have been made to stockholders. The amount you see is the annual dividend quoted as if you owned one share of that stock.

  • Volume: This column tells you how many shares of that particular stock were traded that day. If only 100 shares are traded in a day, the trading volume is 100.

  • Yield: This column refers to what percentage that particular dividend is to the stock price. Yield, which is most important to income investors, is calculated by dividing the annual dividend by the current stock price.

  • P/E: This column indicates the ratio between the price of the stock and the company’s earnings. This ratio (also called the earnings multiple or just multiple) is frequently used to determine whether a stock is a good value.

  • Day last: This column tells you how trading ended for a particular stock on the day represented by the table. Some newspapers report the high and low for that day in addition to the stock’s ending price.

  • Net change: This column answers the question “How did the stock price end today compared with its trading price at the end of the prior trading day?