How to Track the Stock Market in Real Time
The days of digging deep into a company's financials to make smart investments are gone. Today, you can easily find real-time stock market data with just a few clicks of your mouse. Countless apps and websites offer instant individual stock prices and closing stock market prices. The world of trading stocks is now a vast minefield of fundamental and technical information. With so much data available, you may feel overwhelmed as an investor, regardless of your experience level.
Here are some steps to take when you want to use real-time stock market prices to make smarter financial decisions.
Finding Information on Financial Websites
Unfortunately — or fortunately, depending on how much you enjoy research — a broad spectrum of finance publications exist online. Most provide real-time stock prices and charting capabilities at no cost. However, not all available functions are free. If you're a new investor, it’s best to stick with free publications that are respected and well known in the finance world. MarketWatch, Bloomberg, CNBC, The Motley Fool and NASDAQ.com are a few reputable publications that offer instant stock quotes and other important information about trading stocks and investing.
Locating Real-Time Stock Market Prices
So, you're ready to start investing, and you want access to real-time stock market prices. Most of the sites listed above are user-friendly and make it easy to locate market data. For example, you can easily find CNBC online, and the site shows stock market prices for the Dow Jones Industrial Average, NASDAQ, the S&P 500 and the Russell 2000. It also has a search quotes field at the top of the webpage that lets you look up individual stock prices after finding a company's ticker symbol. If you're not sure how to find a symbol, a simple search using the company's name with the terms "ticker symbol" should do the trick.
Using Trading Sites
Today, stock market trading sites dominate the investing world. What was once a "closed society" limited to America's ultra-wealthy is now open to anyone with an internet connection. Numerous stock market brokerage firms give users the option to execute trades online. In some cases, your trading isn't limited to just the American markets. You can execute trades for companies listed on the China stock market index or the Singapore stock market index. From TD Ameritrade to Charles Schwab to Fidelity Investments, various online trading powerhouses give you access to powerful research tools and trading capabilities.
Accuracy of Real-Time Stock Market Prices
One of the undeniable truths about stock market prices is they fluctuate — and sometimes they fluctuate dramatically. One minute Apple's stock price is up 10 percent on a strong earnings report, and the next minute it's down 10 percent because the latest iPhone's battery doesn't charge very well. This is just the way stock markets work, and it's a real-world example of how quickly prices can change. You can expect price fluctuations, so it's best to look at how accurate the data is in financial publications.
Several of the financial publications that offer free services don't provide real-time data. Instead, they delay quotes and other stock market prices by 15-20 minutes. In general, if you want instant quotes with up-to-the-second prices, it's going to cost you money. For example, most online brokerages require an initial deposit of $1,000 or more, depending on the type of trading and services you need.
Average Brokerage Costs
There are two types of brokerage firms: discount firms and full-service firms. Discount brokerage companies don't offer investment advice, and you must conduct your own research. Aside from the initial deposit, you can expect to pay roughly $4 to $20 per trade, depending on how many shares you're buying or selling.
Full-service firms provide you with education, investment advice and research. Some charge a transaction fee of $120 or more, plus a 1 to 1.5 percent annual fee. When you pay for premium services, you receive real-time stock market prices (not delayed quotes) and access to professional traders who offer advice based on your best interests. Full-service brokers work on commission, so it's in their best interests to make sure you earn profits on your investment portfolio.