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New Stock, Fund Tables Offer More Relevant Data

Investing: The Times is revising its listings. Here's what it means to you.

January 11, 2000

Beginning today The Times has revised its stock and mutual fund listings. The aim is to make the data easier to read and more relevant to more investors.

Among the key changes in the tables, which begin on C16 today:

* Type has been made more readable where possible.

* Stocks now are priced in decimals rather than fractions.

* More Southern California stocks are shown in special tables both daily and on Sunday.

* More well-known stocks are shown in special highlighted tables both daily and on Sunday.

* Raw trading volume figures are no longer shown for individual stocks in the A-to-Z stock tables. Instead, a new figure has been substituted: the percentage by which the previous day's volume differed from the stock's average daily volume over the last 65 days.

* A new daily "volume surge" table on the Daily Market Roundup page (on C16 today) shows stocks with unusually large increases in trading activity.

* Tables showing well-known and Southern California-based stocks now include more information, including a "projected price-to-earnings ratio."

* New tables have been added to show more data on the largest stock and bond mutual funds, including year-to-date total returns.

* More stock mutual funds are now listed daily, and each fund's daily change is expressed in percentage terms rather than in dollars and cents.

* Other than the largest bond mutual funds, daily price information is no longer shown for bond funds. However, the largest-bond-funds table accounts for the vast majority of bond fund assets.

* More data are shown for the largest Nasdaq and Amex stocks.

The following are answers to common questions investors may have about the changes.

We are interested in reader reaction to the tables. If you have any questions or comments, e-mail me at daniel.gaines@latimes.com, or write:

Daniel Gaines, Markets Editor

Business Editorial

Los Angeles Times

Times Mirror Square

Los Angeles, CA. 90053

You can also leave a message at (213) 237-4557.

Question: Why does The Times now publish stock prices in decimals rather than fractions?

Answer: All U.S. stock markets will switch to decimals from fractions, beginning in mid-2000.

The Times is switching ahead of the markets for these reasons:

* Decimals are easier to read and understand than fractions.

* Readers responding to a note placed in the Business section last year overwhelmingly endorsed switching to decimals.

* The Times already uses decimal stock prices in news stories.

Q: What is the "Vol. %" figure that has been added to the daily stock tables?

A: This is a new calculation that will generally be more useful to most investors than a raw volume figure.

The "volume percentage" figure compares the previous day's volume in a stock to its average daily volume for the last 65 trading days.

For example, a figure of "+50" means 50% more shares traded hands the previous day than the average of the previous 65 days. "-50" means half as many shares traded than the 65-day average. An equal (=) sign is used when volume is less than 1% above or below the 65-day average.

The volume-percentage figure takes the place of the daily volume figure, which The Times has dropped from its tables.

Q: Why focus on the percentage change in volume rather than the actual number of shares traded, which had been in The Times' tables?

A: Volume changes can be as important as price changes when evaluating stocks, because volume changes can indicate more--or less--interest in a stock.

For example, experienced investors take price movements more seriously when larger-than-normal numbers of shares have traded hands as well. By contrast, when volume is light, a price change may be less significant because fewer investors may have felt strongly about the stock.

Because "normal" volume is different for every stock and changes over time, investors arguably cannot tell much from raw daily volume figures.

There are two other reasons why The Times believes the volume percentage figure is more useful than raw volume:

* Raw volume figures of Nasdaq stocks cannot easily be compared to those of New York Stock Exchange stocks because the volume is calculated differently on the two markets.

* After-hours trading is making it harder to define a "trading day" for determining raw volume. Internet and published sources may provide different volume figures, making it difficult to use more than one source.

Q: How can I track the stocks showing the largest daily percentage increases in trading volume?

A: The Daily Market Roundup, which today appears on C16, includes special tables showing the stocks with the largest volume increases. See accompanying story for more details.

Q: What criteria is used to decide what is a "Southern California company" for the new Southern California stock tables?

A: The stocks listed in the Southern California "gainers" and "losers" tables are based primarily on companies listed on the major markets that report their headquarters as being in Southern California in official filings.

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