What Is After the Bell?

In finance or discussing the stock market, "after the bell" refers to any news, earnings reports, and other activities occurring or released after the stock market close. Excluding weekends and stock market holidays, regular trading hours for the U.S. stock market occurs between 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Eastern time, Monday through Friday.

Key Takeaways

  • In discussing the stock market, "after the bell" refers to news, earnings reports, and other activities occurring or released after the stock market close (4 p.m. Eastern Time).
  • After the bell announcements are integrated into stock prices at the next market opening, as investors are not able to place orders when the market is closed.
  • The term "after the bell" came from the New York Stock Exchange, which traditionally rang a bell at the beginning of the day's trading session and closed trading by ringing the closing bell.

Understanding After the Bell

After the bell announcements are integrated into stock prices at the next market opening, as investors are not able to place orders when the market is closed. Positive information about a security released after the bell may result in a surge in early morning trading activity, while negative news may result in a lower opening price.

The New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) traditionally rings a bell at the beginning of the day's trading session and closes trading by ringing the closing bell. Though activity on the market floor has slowed with the advent of electronic trading, dignitaries, company executives, and celebrities often are given the honor of ringing the bell to mark the open and closing of floor activity.

Closing Bell

The NYSE closing bell occurs at 4:00 p.m. Eastern standard time. From 1870 to 1903, a gong was used at the NYSE. A brass bell was introduced when the exchange moved to its current home, and a brass bell is still in use but is now controlled electrically rather than rung by hand. Prior to 1995, ringing the bell usually was the responsibility of the exchange's floor managers, but now involves invited guests.

There are bells located in each of the four main sections of the NYSE, and once a button is pressed, each rings at the same time. The ringers press the button for approximately 10 seconds, and a gavel is used in conjunction with the sounding of the closing bell as a callback to the tradition of a gavel used to keep order during trading sessions.

4 p.m. ET until 9:30 a.m. ET

"After the bell" hours, when the stock market is closed.

Other exchanges, such as the Nasdaq, have closing ceremonies that do not use actual bells to end trading. Guests are invited, including companies celebrating their first day of trading on the exchange. Charities and other noncommercial entities have also been invited to closing bell ceremonies, often in connection with a special occasion or organizational campaign.

As a metaphor and symbol, the closing bell is used by many media outlets to frame coverage of the trading day and to assess market performance. News programs targeted to stock market activity often pause to note the closing bell, then resume commentary to give an overview of stock performance along with any news or information that surfaces after the close. Companies often wait to release news that might influence trading until after the closing bell.