This is a general definition. A stock or share represents a portion of ownership of a company. Also known as equity. If company XYZ has 1,000 shares of stock outstanding and each share has a price of $30, then Company XYZ is worth $30,000 (=$30 x 1000). This $30,000 is also called the Market Capitalization of Company XYZ. If you wanted to buy all (100%) of Company XYZ you would need to pay $30,000. If you own 100 shares, you would own 10% (=100/1000) of the company. When you own 1 share of stock, you are entitled to the proportional amount of assets in the company after liabilities are paid. You are also entitled to a share of the future profits, these can take the form of Dividends. And last, but not least, you are normally entitled to a vote at the annual share holders meeting. These entitlements are normal and the majority of stocks traded at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) or National Association of Securities Dealers (NASDAQ) will have them, however, you should verify them with any specific stock that you are interested in investing.
The price of each share can be found in many locations in print (the Wall Street Journal, the Financial Times, Investors Business Daily or your local newspaper are a few) or online (at sites like,, or any online broker to name a few). You can also get a quote from your broker. Unless you are an active trader or have a large account most of the prices that you can find online are delayed quotes. These quotes are delayed by about 20 minutes. I will compare brokers in a later post.
If you get a quote online, it will be given with two or three prices. Do not let this confuse you. One price will be the Bid price, one price will be the Ask price, and the third price may be the last price. The Bid price is the price that someone will buy the stock from you if you want to sell the stock. The Ask price is the price that someone will sell the stock to you. The difference between the Bid and the Ask is called the spread. Normally, you can buy or sell the stock at a price in between the Bid and the Ask price.