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What is a 'Bid'?

A bid is an offer made by an investor, trader or dealer to buy a security, commodity or currency. It stipulates both the price the potential buyer is willing to pay and the quantity he or she will purchase at that price. A bid also refers to the price at which a market maker is willing to buy; unlike a retail buyer, a market maker also displays an ask price.

BREAKING DOWN 'Bid'

The bid is the price of a stock in the market for a buyer, and the ask is the price a seller is willing to accept; the difference between the two is the spread. When completing a purchase at the bid price, both the bid and the ask may move higher for the next transaction if sellers perceive good demand.

Spread

The spread between the bid and the ask is an indicator of supply and demand for the financial instrument in question. The more interest investors have, the narrower the spread. In stock trading, the spread constantly varies as buyers and sellers are matched electronically; the size of the spread in dollars and cents reflects the price of the stock being traded. For example, a spread of 25 cents on a price of $10 is 2.5 percent but only 0.25 percent if the stock price is $100.

In foreign exchange, the standard bid-ask spread in EUR/USD interbank quotes is between two and four pips — the price move in a given exchange — depending on the amount being traded and the time of the day. Spreads are typically narrowest in the morning in New York when the European market is also open. For example, a bid of 1.1015 is typically accompanied by an ask of between 1.1017 and 1.019. A standard USD/JPY bid-ask spread is 106.18 to 106.20. Currency pairs that are less actively traded have wider spreads.

Market Makers

Market makers, sometimes referred to as specialists on stock exchanges, are vital to the efficiency and liquidity of the marketplace. By quoting both bid and ask prices, they step into the stock market when electronic price matching fails, and they enable investors to buy or sell a security. Specialists must always quote a price in a stock they trade, but there is no restriction on the bid-ask spread.

In the foreign exchange market, interbank traders function as market makers because they provide a continuous stream of two-way prices to both direct counterparties and the electronic trading systems. Their spreads widen in times of market volatility and uncertainty, and unlike their counterparts in the stock market, they are not required to make a price in a market where liquidity has dried up.

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