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What Are Level 2 Quotes?
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Level 2 (aka Level II) quotes come from a trading service consisting of real-time access to the quotations of individual market makers registered in every Nasdaq listed security, as well as market makers’ quotes in OTC Bulletin Board securities.
It allows you to watch the trades being executed right in front of you.
Level 2 gives you more insight than you need about how a given stock is moving — in other words, its price action.
The screen on your trading platform lists the traders who have been active in buying, selling, or shorting shares of given stocks. You’ll also see the direction in which a given stock will probably move over a specific time period and other actionable information.
There are two sections in your Level 2 window when you look at a stock on your trading platform. One side is the bid and the other is the ask. Basically, this is what people are willing to pay and willing to sell a security for.
The bids are usually on the left and the asks are on the right. Your trading software also shows the total number of shares that the buyers or sellers have in their orders. The bid side is in descending order, with the highest bids on the top.
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The ask side is arranged in ascending order, with the lowest ask on the top.
Think of Level 2 quotes as a way to measure liquidity in a given stock based on how market makers are trading. These are the big institutions and computers that pump millions of dollars into the stock market, so paying attention to their positions can sometimes help you get a better idea of what and how to trade.
There are dangers inherent to this practice, though, so buyer beware. Market makers can attempt to manipulate public perception by changing how they trade.
Importance of Level 2 Quotes
Many people refer to Level 2 quotes as the Nasdaq order book. In other words, it’s where you go to find out where the meat of the stock market is playing out.
In reality, it’s the rest of the Nasdaq order book. You can find the rest in Level 1 quotes. Level 1 provides basic information about a given stock, such as bid, ask, and spread prices in real time. It just doesn’t show you the depth of the order.
For instance. Level 2 quotes tell you whether there are limit orders on a given stock or the position sizes of trades that might be forthcoming. You need Level 2 access for that.
The only greater access you can get is through Level 2I, which is typically only available to market makers. Retail traders and brokers don’t have access to this information, so you don’t need to worry about it.
Level 2 Quotes Definition
Level 2 quotes can tell you exactly what you need to know about a stock’s price action based on how market makers are treating it. I’ll cover the players shortly, but if you follow a specific player based on its position in a stock, you can potentially increase your chances of a successful play.
Keep in mind that market makers might provide the liquidity necessary for the stock market to function, but their goals are ultimately the same as yours: They want to make money.
Nobody — not even a huge institution like JPMorgan — goes in looking for a loss. It happens sometimes as a cost of doing business, but market makers want to profit as much as you do.
Sections in Your Level 2 Window
The arrangement of your Level 2 window will vary depending on what trading platform you’re using. They typically use the same structure, though, so traders don’t have to spend too much time learning a new user interface.
You can get a ton of information here, including bid and ask prices on either side of the NBBO price, which is the best-offer price in the United States for that particular stock.
Remember that these aren’t actual trades. In other words, what you see in Level 2 quotes haven’t happened yet. What you’re looking at is market interest — what is likely to happen in the future.
The bid price is what people are willing to pay for a given security. It’s like an auction on eBay. People put in their bids (offers), and other people try to top them so they can buy whatever product is on offer. In the stock market, traders will only pay a certain price for a stock based on its perceived value.
The ask price is what a stockholder is willing to sell the stock for. It might be much more than the bid price or almost the same. What constitutes the ask price — and the bid price, for that matter — can vary depending on where you’re trading. It’s typically the lowest ask and highest bid prices made most recently.
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The spread is the difference between the bid and ask prices. An extremely liquid stock will typically have a narrow spread. The stocks are changing hands so frequently that buyers and sellers easily trade shares. For an illiquid stock, which means there’s not much action, you’ll see much wider spreads.
What is Level 2 Trading?
Level 2 trading involves using a subscription service, such as StocksToTrade, to gatherinformation about the market and make trading decisions based on the data you see.
Three different entities control Level 2 trading.
First, you have the market makers, as I’ve already mentioned. They’re also called liquidity providers. They’re responsible for quoting both bid and ask prices on specific stocks, and their goal is to make money on the spread.
Designated market makers are entities that have received certification by an exchange and that have agreed to guarantee a position in the stock market. It could be buying, selling, or options trading.
Electronic communications networks, or ECNs, are also listed in Level 2 quotes. These are computer programs that execute automatic trades based on market conditions.
Finally, you have the wholesalers. They get order flows from brokers.
When it comes to Level 2 quotes, the ax isn’t a separate player, but instead the dominant player. Think of the ax as the most active entity or person involved with a specific stock.
If you pay attention to price action over several days or weeks, depending on the stock’s liquidity, the ax will emerge from the data. The ax has the largest position in the stock and therefore controls the price action.
How to Read Level 2 Stock Quotes
If you’ve never looked at Level 2 stock quotes before, you might feel a little overwhelmed. That’s natural. Once you understand the data flow, however, it can become second nature.
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