What do the "BxA" numbers on my brokerage's trading screen mean?

By Chris Gallant AAA
A:

The letters 'B' and 'A' in the notation BxA refer to bid and ask, respectively. When you look at online stock quote data, some sources will provide you with a feed of the bid and ask outstanding order volumes for the stock in question. There is no standardized method for reporting this data, but usually the numbers you will see will be divided by 100, meaning that for every "1" shown on the table, there are 100 shares of stock listed for trade at that price.

What you will usually see when you request BxA data is a two-column table of data, one side listing the bid amounts and the other containing the ask amounts. Each row of numbers will correspond to a given price. The bids are listed from highest to lowest, while the ask orders are listed from lowest to highest, providing you with an idea of how many shares of stock are currently on the table to be bought or sold at each price level. (For further insight, check out Why The Bid-Ask Spread Is So Important, Understanding Order Execution and The Basics Of Order Entry.)

If, for example, you were to see a relatively small number of 'A', or ask, numbers for the lower price levels in the table and then much larger ask numbers at higher price levels in the table, this would indicate that at that moment in time, there is a large supply of the stock available for sale at that higher price level. So, if the stock happens to be bid up to that level, it would need an even greater amount of buying pressure in order to consume all of the supply at the price and potentially move up to higher prices.

Unfortunately, the data provided for stocks on such exchanges as the Nasdaq changes so quickly that it is very difficult to analyze any sort of short-term price ceilings or floors in stock simply by looking at the BxA numbers. A look at the BxA analysis can be useful to obtain a rough idea of what kind of resistance (or support) a stock you are looking to trade has at a given price level. (To learn more, see Support & Resistance Basics.)

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