Time and Sales: Read the Tape Like a Pro Investor

What Are Time and Sales?

Time and sales, or T&S, show volume, price, direction, date, and time data for each trade that is executed on an exchange. Time and sales information is often provided as a real-time data feed of trade orders for a security

Key Takeaways

  • Time and sales log the time-stamped transaction details for all trading activity in a listed security.
  • Time and sales data is usually public information, with real-time data services providing feeds to traders and investors.
  • Time and sales data is often scrutinized by traders practicing technical analysis.

How Time and Sales Work

Time and sales data provides a detailed account of trading activity for a particular security or market. From a historical perspective, time and sales are akin to reading an old-fashioned ticker tape for an individual stock. Today, it is disseminated as a real-time digital display, usually comprising trade volume, price, direction, date, time, and exchange for each trade.

Time and sales data is most frequently accessed via a trading platform and is displayed in the time and sales window. The window displays a running tally of trades for shares of a particular stock in a table format. Each of the primary components of time and sales is arrayed in columns, such as date/time, price/change, and volume. The rows of data are often color-coded in order to indicate whether the trade occurred on, in, or outside the bid or ask. Many trading platforms today allow investors to customize the display of time and sales data, for example, by adding volume or price filters. It is often used in technical analysis.

Some form of time and sales data often appears on the ticker tape. Each entry on the ticker tape displays the stock symbol (indicating which company’s stock has been traded), volume (number of shares traded), the price per share at which the trade was executed, an up or down triangle showing whether that price is above or below the previous trading day’s closing price, and another number showing how much higher or lower that trade’s price was than the last closing price.

Once referring to an actual tape of paper with time and sales data printed onto it, electronic ticker tapes today use green LEDs or font color to indicate a higher trading price and red to indicate a lower price (blue or white to indicate no change). Before 2001, trading prices were displayed in fractions, but since 2001, all prices are shown in decimals.


For example, time and sales data would indicate that a buy order for +100 shares of XYZ stock was made on the NASDAQ at 12:31:54 EST for $65.84, which is 1 cent higher than the previous trade.

How Investors Use Time and Sales Data

Investors follow a number of different strategies and tools when deciding which stocks to buy and sell. Those using fundamental analysis attempt to determine the intrinsic value of a company by examining their financials, while investors using technical analysis attempt to forecast prices by plugging price movements and trading volume into statistical models. One technical analysis technique used by investors involves analyzing time and sales data.

Using time and sales data complements the use of charts and graphs for estimating share price movement. For example, bar charts and candlestick charts show trading ranges for a given period of time in aggregate and are used to see, for instance, handle, double bottom, and Hikkake patterns. This provides a broad view of price and volume trends. When coupled with the more granular trade information from time and sales, the investor can create a more detailed picture of a security's trends.

Investors can use time and sales data to determine whether to execute a trade of their own. The number of data updates that arrive from real-time feeds can catch novice investors off guard. One initial strategy is to watch the direction, volume, and price for a short period of time in order to get a feel for things. At this point, the investor can look for several different cues, including spikes in volume or a significant change in the number of trades. Investors using a time and sales data approach will likely have more success with stocks that have strong volume.

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