A stock market is a market for the trading of company stock, and derivatives of same; both of these are securities listed on a stock exchange as well as those only traded privately.

Select a broker or investment advisor who understands your financial objectives. Interview several to compare experience, education and professional background.

The stock market is one of the most important resources for companies to gain money. This helps businesses to go public, or raise extra money for expansion. The liquidity that an exchange helps affords investors the ability to quickly and easily sell securities. This is an attractive feature of investing in stocks.

Exchanges also act as the clearinghouse for every transaction, meaning that they collect and deliver the shares, and guarantee payment to the seller of a security. This eliminates the risk to an individual buyer or seller that the counterparty could default on the transaction.

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How to Read a Stock Quote :

• Locate the abbreviated name of the company. The abbreviation usually appears in the third column ("Stock").

• Look at the 52-week high ("Hi"). This is the highest price anyone has paid for the stock in the past year, and it appears in the first column.

• Find the 52-week low ("Low"). This is the lowest price paid for the stock in the past year. The figure appears in the second column.

• Note the ticker symbol. This symbol, used by the stock exchange to identify the company, appears in the fourth column.

• Check the dividend and yield figures that appear in the fifth and sixth columns. "Div" is the amount of cash that would be paid to shareholders yearly based on the most recent quarterly payment. "Yld" is the cash dividend divided by the closing price of the stock.

• Review the "PE" figure that appears in the sixth column. The price-earnings ratio is calculated by dividing the closing price by earnings for the past four quarters combined. This provides a way to compare stock values.

• Note the seventh column, "Vol.," which shows how many shares of the stock changed hands the previous business day.

• Glance at the eighth and ninth columns, which show the highest price and the lowest price paid for the stock on that day.

• Read the last two columns to get out the price at which the stock closed for the day ("Close") and the net change ("Net chg") from the day before.

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