As anyone who has ever watched a financial network or checked out a market web site knows, security prices, particularly those of stocks, are frequently on the move. A stock ticker is a report of the price of certain securities, updated continuously throughout the trading session by the various stock market exchanges.

A "tick" is any change in the price of the security, whether that movement is up or down. A stock ticker automatically displays these ticks, along with other relevant information, like trading volume, that investors and traders use to stay informed about current market conditions and the interest in that particular security.

Key Takeaways

  • A stock ticker is the reported price of the underlying security, updated continuously throughout the day, during the time stock market exchanges are open; there are also after-hours quotes that are reported.
  • A stock ticker can't display all the stocks that are trading at any given time, so it typically displays the most heavily-traded securities or the ones that are in the news on a given day, even if they aren't heavily traded.
  • The ticker typically shows the ticker symbol, the price change and percentage change from the previous session's close and sometimes the volume of the shares being traded.
  • Some tickers will color code the ticker information to reflect the direction of the price, with green for higher, red for lower and a neutral color like gray or tan for no change.

Understanding Stock Tickers

A limited number of stocks appear on the stock ticker during any particular period, due to a large number of stocks trading at the same time. Often, the stocks with the greatest change in price from the previous day's trading session, or those trading under the highest volume appear on the stock ticker.

You have probably seen a stock ticker scrolling by at the bottom of the financial news networks on television. The ticker provides current information for certain stocks, including the ticker symbol (the one-to four-letter code that represents a particular stock), quantity traded (volume for each transaction), price, a green "up" arrow if the price is higher than the previous day's closing value, a red "down" arrow if the price is lower, and the net price change (either as a dollar amount or percentage) from the previous day's close.

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If the price is unchanged, the arrow may be gray in color or simply absent. Often, the ticker symbol and the net price change also appear color-coded: green if the price is higher, or red if the price is lower.

You can watch stock tickers on a variety of financial news networks, and many trading platforms allow you to customize and view stock tickers that can be displayed at the bottom of your computer monitor.

Many of today's fully electronic stock tickers display market data in real-time or with a small delay.

Origins of the Stock Ticker

The first telegraphic ticker tape was created in 1867 by Edward Calahan, who was an employee of the American Telegraph Company. Just four years later, Thomas Edison improved upon Calahan's invention and patented it. Mechanical tickers were printed on paper by machines that made the flow of information more efficient. As technology evolved, that dissemination became faster and almost real-time, as we can see today.