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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

How to Get a Stock Quote

Dusty in Alaska
The best way to start thinking about investing is to get a list of stocks and follow them on an ongoing basis.  Start very basic and build up.

A good way to start is by following stocks you are interested in.  If you have young children who might be interested in stocks, get them to think about the producers of the products they like:  who produces the movies they go to, the cell phone they may have, the sports equipment they use, the cereal they eat in the morning, etc.

For example, market's darling du jour is Apple Computer.  As a first step (field trip time...Yay!!!), I would suggest visiting an Apple Computer store to get a sense of the excitement surrounding their products.  Watch the sales people write up sales tickets.  Hang around the "genius bar" and eavesdrop. Examine the peripheral products lining the wall.

All of this is brought to mind because I just went through this experience with my wife--replacing her dead computer with a Mac Pro.

Thus, yesterday when Apple released its earnings and the sales number on iPods and iPads, etc. were released, I, for one, wasn't all that surprised.  The store was jumping each time I and my wife visited, and the surrounding mall stores were pretty much without customers.

So, anyways....if you want to follow a stock, the first thing you need is a ticker symbol.  Yahoo! Finance is as good a place to start as any.
If you don't know the ticker for a particular company, click "Finance Search."  Do this and you'll find the ticker for Apple Computer is AAPL.

Just as an FYI:  stocks, mutual funds, and exchange traded funds all have ticker symbols.

Once you have the ticker symbol in hand, you're in business, so to speak.  Type it in the "Get Quotes" box above and you'll get the most recent price and, typically, much more information.  Doing this for AAPL, for example, gets you the following:

Source: Yahoo
CLICK TO ENLARGE  As you can see, you get a lot of information on the stock, including the price of the last trade, the 12-month range, and bid and ask prices.  Puttering around a bit on the page will show you that there is a tremendous amount of information at your fingertips.

Many people today don't appreciate this info-at-your-fingertips-thingy because they weren't around back in the day when you had to call your sleazy broker to get the price of your stocks. More often than not, that came along with a sales pitch to sell it for something else.

As a first step, you want to focus on the last trade price and maybe start tracking it on a daily or weekly basis.  If you're working with a student, you might get them to set up a spreadsheet for this purpose.  This will give them something to do during the summer.

Notice the last line of the above graphic that shows ticker symbols of other stocks that people interested in AAPL viewed.  For homework, get prices on these stocks and find the company they represent.  Can you guess  what AMZN might be?


  1. Robert, funny you mention Apple! After the dotcom bust, I lost more money than I would've liked and stayed away from the market. I was given a MacBook at work - the very first time I used a Mac. I loved it and decided to buy Apple shares, the only stock in my trading account at that time and a very impulsive decision. Did not do any analysis whatsoever. This was waay before iPhones or even Intel Macs.

    I do not know why I did that, I'm usually not the impulsive kind, but I can't say that was a bad move!

    Getting to know the product/company you are investing in is a good move for long term investors.

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