What Is a Bid Price?

A bid price is a price for which somebody is willing to buy something, whether it be a security, asset, commodity, service, or contract. It is colloquially known as a “bid” in many markets and jurisdictions.

Generally, a bid is lower than an offered price, or “ask” price, which is the price at which people are willing to sell. The difference between the two prices is called a bid-ask spread​​​​​​​.

Bids are made continuously by market makers for a security and may also be made in cases where a seller requests a price where they can sell. Sometimes, a buyer will present a bid even if a seller is not actively looking to sell, in which case it is considered an unsolicited bid.

Key Takeaways

  • The bid price is the highest price a buyer is willing to pay for a security or asset.
  • A bid price is generally arrived at through a process of negotiation between the seller and a single buyer or multiple buyers.
  • The difference between the bid price and ask price is known as the market's spread, and is a measure of liquidity in that security.
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Bid Price

Understanding Bid Prices

The bid price is the amount of money a buyer is willing to pay for a security. It is contrasted with the sell (ask or offer) price, which is the amount a seller is willing to sell a security for. The difference between these two prices is referred to as the spread. The spread is how market makers (MMs) derive profits. Thus, the higher the spread is, the greater the profit.

Bid prices are often specifically designed to exact a desirable outcome from the entity making the bid. For example, if the ask price of a good is forty dollars, and a buyer wants to pay thirty dollars for the good, they might make a bid of twenty dollars, and appear to compromise and give up something by agreeing to meet in the middle—exactly where they wanted to be in the first place.

When multiple buyers put in bids, it can develop into a bidding war, wherein two or more buyers place incrementally higher bids. For example, a firm may set an asking price of five thousand dollars on a good. Bidder A might make a bid of three thousand dollars. Bidder B may offer three thousand and five hundred dollars. Bidder A might counter with four thousand dollars.

Eventually, a price will be settled upon when a buyer makes an offer which their rivals are unwilling to top. This is quite beneficial to the seller, as it puts a second pressure on the buyers to pay a higher price than if there was a single prospective buyer.

NBBO

Quotes will often show the national best bid and offer (NBBO) from across all exchanges that a security is listed. That means that the best bid price may come from a different exchange or location than the best offer.

In the context of stock trading, the bid price refers to the highest amount of money a prospective buyer is willing to spend for it. Most quote prices as displayed by quote services and on stock tickers are the highest bid price available for a given good, stock, or commodity. The ask or offer price displayed by said quote services corresponds directly to the lowest asking price for a given stock or commodity on the market. In an options market, bid prices can also be market-makers, if the market for the options contract is illiquid or lacks enough liquidity.

Buying and Selling at the Bid

Investors and traders that initiate a market order to buy will typically do so at the current ask price and sell at the current bid price. Limit orders, in contrast, allow investors and traders to place a buy order at the bid price (or a sell order at the ask), which could get them a better fill.

Those looking to sell at the market price may be said to "hit the bid."

Bid Size

In addition to the price that people are willing to buy, the amount or volume bid for is also important for understanding the liquidity of a market. Bid sizes are typically displayed along with a level 1 quote. If the quote indicates a bid price of $50 and a bid size of 500, that you can sell up to 500 shares at $50.

Bid size may be contrasted with the ask size, where the ask size is the amount of a particular security that investors are offering to sell at the specified ask price. Investors interpret differences in the bid size and ask size as representing the supply and demand relationship for that security.

Example of Bid Price

Suppose Alex wants to buy shares in company ABC. The stock is trading in a range between $10 and $15. But Alex is not willing to pay more than $12 for them, so they place a limit order of $12 for ABC's shares. This is their bid price.