Delayed vs Real-Time Stock Quotes

By Samuel Becker · January 19, 2023 · 8 minute read

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Delayed vs Real-Time Stock Quotes

Stock quotes, which may be seen on financial news networks or websites, are typically reported in real time, or with a delay. The main difference? Real-time quotes are the most up-to-date, while delayed quotes lag behind real-time quotes by several minutes, in most cases.

Which one is better? For the average investor who isn’t making changes to their portfolio, real-time quotes may be more precise than they need. For those investors, delayed stock quotes may suffice. Here’s what you need to know about the difference between real-time stock quotes and delayed quotes.

What Are Real-Time Stock Quotes?

Real-time stock quotes relay price information for various securities in real-time, or instantaneously. In other words, a real-time stock quote is the actual and immediate stock price at any given point in time. The quotes reflect demand for a security on stock markets around the world.

How Real-Time Quotes Work

Stock quotes include ticker symbols that denote the stock of a specific company or firm, and the price of a stock’s current (real-time) valuation. Those values are determined by trading activity — supply and demand, in other words. Those values also fluctuate during the trading day.

The letters and numbers comprising a quote — either real-time or delayed — reflect different types of investments or commodities and their prices — the price at which they’re currently trading. Typically the ticker symbol is similar in some way to the company name, and you can use it to look up the stock price.

For example, the ticker AAPL is Apple; XOM is the ticker for ExxonMobil; JNJ is the ticker for Johnson & Johnson; UDMY is Udemy; LULU is Lululemon.

Those symbols, when displayed on a ticker tape, are generally followed by or attached to their current trading price.

Real-time quotes are provided by many sources, including financial news networks and websites. Many online trading brokerages also offer their clients access to them as well. Real-time stock quotes provide traders and active investors with more accurate information.

What Are Delayed Quotes?

Delayed stock quotes are valuations of securities that are not in real-time — they’re delayed, as the name indicates. Depending on the source of the quote, the information relating to stock or share prices can be delayed by several minutes, or even up to 20 minutes.

It’s not unusual, for instance, you may login to your investment brokerage and see delayed stock quotes relaying information about the value of your current investments. There will likely be a note telling you how delayed the data is (15 minutes, for example), so that you know the pricing isn’t in real-time.

Most people should be able to tell if a quote is delayed, too, if the price remains static for minutes at a time. Real-time quotes, on the other hand, can fluctuate second-by-second, depending on the security and the source.

For investors involved in day trading, delayed quotes wouldn’t be sufficient; these investors require up-to-the-minute (or to the second) price quotes in order to execute their strategies. But for the majority of buy-and-hold investors, knowing the very latest price of a security may not matter to their long-term plans.

How Delayed Quotes Work

Delayed stock quotes work the same way that real-time quotes do, in that they reflect current market conditions and data relating to security values. But the reporting is delayed for a variety of reasons.

The most common reason that you may come across a site or information source with delayed stock quotes is that fetching and reporting real-time quotes is costly and resource-consuming. As such, companies may opt to report delayed quotes instead.

Real-Time vs Delayed Stock Quotes

Real-time streaming stock quotes change second to second, and can showcase the volatility of stock prices. When stock exchanges are open, trading is constant, and the dynamics of supply and demand for specific stocks change their prices rapidly. So, watching real-time streaming stock quotes means seeing those price fluctuations occur in real time, as the name implies. That can have implications for how traders and investors make decisions.

Using real-time stock quotes can be useful for active traders or investors, or high-frequency traders — professionals who are making numerous stock trades every day or week and may be managing other people’s portfolios, too. For these traders, knowing stock prices down to the minute helps inform their decision to buy or sell. That real-time price, ultimately, determines their stock trading profit (or loss).

There’s also after-hours trading to keep in mind, too. Stock markets have trading hours — the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) and NASDAQ are open between 9:30 am and 4 pm, for example. At other times, investors may still be able to swap securities, but prices are much more volatile after-hours, and because it’s difficult to get real-time quotes after-hours, values can change dramatically before stock markets reopen.

Investors can also execute a market-on-open trade, during which a transaction completes as soon as the markets do open.

While security prices do fluctuate, they generally don’t fluctuate all that much over a relatively short interval (15 minutes, for example). And since the average investor may not be all that interested in minute-by-minute price fluctuations, using a delayed stock quote could provide all the information they need.

Think about it this way: If an investor were looking to rebalance their portfolio — something they may only do two or three times per year — a real-time stock quote isn’t going to give them much more actionable information than a delayed stock quote to help them make an informed decision.

Delayed stock quotes also don’t relay the second-by-second volatility of the market, which can be hard for some investors to digest.

Why Do Stock Quotes Get Delayed?

As mentioned, delayed stock quotes are lagging because they require resources to gather and report. The information is out there, and is collected by firms that supply quotes and pricing information to other companies. Depending on the individual security and the source of the information, a delay is likely the result of a company opting to supply delayed quotes rather than real-time quotes to consumers in order to save on costs.

As such, a small percentage of quote-providers offer consumers real-time market information — and often only to those who pay for it. That’s not to say that real-time data isn’t available for free, but the gathering and reporting can be costly, which is why some providers use delayed quotes.

How Real-Time Quotes Affect Your Investment Strategy

One big question investors may have: How do these two different types of stock quotes actually affect someone’s investment strategy? That depends largely on whether you’re into active investing, and how often they’re swapping positions in their portfolio.

Real-time stock quotes are mainly used by day traders, or active investors who are executing trades on a daily or hourly basis. In those cases, the relatively small fluctuations in price due to market volatility, which occur in real time, can determine whether a trade is profitable or not.

Real-time stock quotes are mainly used by day traders, or active investors who are executing trades on a daily or hourly basis.

For example, if a trader was trying to time a trade to execute at a specific price, a delayed quote might be useless. The time lag could cause them to miss their window, and bobble the trade.

How Delayed Quotes Affect Your Investment Strategy

As noted, if investors are only rebalancing their portfolios every so often, real-time quotes won’t matter all that much to their investing strategies. They aren’t trying to turn a profit from day-trading, in other words, and are taking a longer-term approach to their investing.

As such, for long- or medium-term investors who may only occasionally buy or sell securities, delayed quotes will do the trick. If you’re not checking on your portfolio every day and are only considering asset allocation every few months, there isn’t much of an advantage to looking at real time quotes over delayed ones.

Real-time quotes do provide more information than delayed quotes, though, in that they’re more precise. That can help you if you’re weighing decisions regarding eithershort-term vs long-term investments.

Deciding Which Stock Quote is Right for You

Most investors may not give much thought to real-time versus delayed stock quotes, unless they are active traders, as discussed. Whether or not you need up-to-the-minute quotes really depends on whether you’re doing a lot of trading, and doing that trading within tight time frames in which seconds or minutes matter. So, real-time quotes can give you more insight as to when it’s time to buy, sell, or hold.

Accordingly, if you’re more of a passive investor, you can probably stick to delayed stock quotes to get a broader idea of a security’s value.

The Takeaway

Real-time stock prices are updated to the second; delayed stock prices might be updated every 15 minutes, every hour, or every day, depending on the provider and the security involved.

For investors who aren’t looking to profit from small price fluctuations, it won’t make much of a difference if the quotes they’re using are delayed or not. That said, it’s never a bad idea to use real-time trading data, if an investor has access to it.

Investors can put their knowledge of real-time stock market information to use today. Using SoFi Invest®, investors can set up an Active Invest account to harness the power of real-time trading. Whether an investor is checking their holdings every day, or trying to make the best decision to align with long-term financial plans, SoFi Invest provides fast and accurate data that can be used to empower investors of all levels.

Invest with as little as $5 with a SoFi Active Investing account.


What is a delayed stock quote?

A delayed stock quote is a quote that does not relay real-time value information regarding stock or security values. Instead, the information is delayed by around 15 or 20 minutes, in many cases.

What are real-time stock quotes?

Real-time stock quotes reflect the current market value of a security in real time — meaning up-to-the-minute, or second. Real-time quotes fluctuate constantly based on supply and demand for a security on the market.

Are real-time quotes better than delayed quotes?

Real-time quotes aren’t necessarily better than delayed quotes, but they do reflect more current information which can be better for active investors or day traders.

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