Stock market

: 8/21

Despite all competition, the popularity crown still does to an average that has some of the qualities of an antiquethe Dow Jones Industrial Average, an average of 30 prominent stocks dating back to the 1890s. This average is named for Charles Dowone of the earliest stock market theorists, and a founder of Dow Jones & Company, a leading financial news service and publisher of the Wall Street Journal.

In the days before computers, an average of 30 stocks was perhaps as much as anyone could calculate on a practical basis at intervals throughout the day. Now, the Standard & Poors 500 Stock Index (500 leading stocks) and the New York Stock Exchange Composite Index (all stocks on the NYSE) provide a much more accurate picture of the total market. The professionals are likely to focus their attention on these broad market indexes. But old habits die slowly, and someone calls out, Hows the market? and someone else answers, Up five dollars, or Up fiveits still the Dow Jones Industrial Average (the Dow for short) that theyre talking about.

The importance of daily changes in the averages will be clear if you view them in percentage terms. When the market is not changing rapidly, the normal daily change is less than ½ of 1%. A change of ½% is still moderate; 1% is large but not extraordinary; 2% is dramatic. From the market averages, its a short step to the thousands of detailed listings of stock prices and related data that youll find in the daily newspaper financial tables. These tables include complete reports on the previous days trading on the NYSE and other leading exchanges. They can also give you a surprising amount of extra information.

Some newspapers provide more extensive tables, some less. Since the Wall Street Journal is available world wide, well use it as a source of convenient examples. Youll find a prominent page headed New York Stock Exchange Composite Transactions. This table covers the days trading for all stocks listed on the NYSE. Composite means that it also includes trades in those same stocks on certain other exchanges (Pacific, Midwest, etc.) where the stocks are dually listed. Here are some sample entries:

52 Weeks

Yld

P-E

Sales

Net

High

Low

Stock

Div

%

Ratio

100s

High

Low

Close

Chg.

52 7/8

37 5/8

Cons Ed

2.68

5.4

12

909

49 3/8

48 7/8

49 1/4

+1/4

91 1/8

66 1/2

Gen El

2.52

2.8

17

11924

91 3/8

89 5/8

90

-1

41 3/8

26 1/4

Mobil

2.20

5.4

10

15713

41

40 1/2

40 7/8

+5/8

: 3/03/2010