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What Is Volume in Stock Trading? How Investors Can Use It

By Austin Kilham · December 21, 2021 · 5 minute read

We’re here to help! First and foremost, SoFi Learn strives to be a beneficial resource to you as you navigate your financial journey. Read more We develop content that covers a variety of financial topics. Sometimes, that content may include information about products, features, or services that SoFi does not provide. We aim to break down complicated concepts, loop you in on the latest trends, and keep you up-to-date on the stuff you can use to help get your money right. Read less

What Is Volume in Stock Trading? How Investors Can Use It

Stock trading volume is a measure of the amount of stocks traded over a given day or other specified time period. When more of a stock is traded actively, trading volume is high, while volume slumps as sales slow.

Some investors may analyze volume as a part of a technical analysis strategy to help them make decisions about when to buy and sell a particular stock. Here’s a closer look at volume and how investors may be able to use it.

What Is Volume in Stocks?

Trade volume for stock and other securities tells investors how frequently shares in a company are being bought and sold.

Every buy and sell transaction of a particular stock helps contribute to its trade volume. A transaction takes place when a buyer agrees to purchase the shares a seller has put up for sale. If this type of transaction takes place 100 times during a day for a particular stock, that stock has a trade volume of 100.

For stock futures and options trading, volume is based on how many contracts change hands during the set period.

Volume doesn’t tell the whole story of a stock. There are a couple of terms that can help give investors a better idea of the size of a company and how many shares are actually available, including “float” and market capitalization, or market cap.

Volume vs Float

While volume is the number of shares that are being actively traded during a given period, float is the number of shares that are actually available to trade. This total does not include restricted shares, which are not registered and are usually given to corporate leaders as part of a compensation package. Outstanding shares refers to all of the stock a company has issued, including restricted shares.

Stocks that have a small number of shares — usually between 10 million and 20 million — available to trade are what is known as “low-float” stocks. Large corporations, by contrast, could have floats of billions of shares.

In certain circumstances when trade volume is very high, volume can surpass float or even number of outstanding shares.

Volume vs Market Cap

Market cap is the total number of outstanding shares multiplied by the current public market price. In other words, it’s the dollar amount required to buy up all outstanding shares of a company, including restricted shares.

Market cap helps investors understand the size of one company relative to another. For example, large-cap stocks tend to be companies worth $10 billion or more, while small-cap stocks tend to be companies worth $300 million to $2 billion.

Investors can calculate free-float market cap by excluding restricted shares.

What Does Stock Volume Tell You?

Stock volume tells investors how much interest there is in a stock. The greater the volume, the more interest there is, while smaller volume translates to less interest.

High trade volume can also indicate that stock orders are being executed quickly and that the market is highly liquid. In other words, high volume can mean that buying and selling the stock is relatively easy.

What It Means When Stock Volume Goes Up

When stock volume is on the rise, it typically means that prices are on the move, either in the upward or downward direction. As volume increases, it can mean that investors are committing to the price change; a trend may be gathering strength.

Generally speaking, higher volume means that there’s increased interest in buying a stock, and that the market for that stock is more liquid, making it easier to buy and sell shares.

What It Means When Stock Volume Goes Down

When stock volume starts to decrease, it can signal that investors are less enthusiastic about a company. Volumes can decrease even as stock prices increase.

Low volume can be a signal for investors to get cautious about a stock. It can signal market uncertainty, the possibility of stock volatility on the horizon, and lower liquidity.

Where Can You Find Stock Volume on a Chart?

Investors can usually find information about volume next to or below the stock chart provided by trading platforms or media sources, like Yahoo Finance or the Wall Street Journal.

Often volume is charted using a candlestick chart, in which investors look for patterns to help them make investment decisions. Normally, candlestick charts measure a stock’s price, including highs, lows, and opening and closing prices over a given period. The resulting figure looks a bit like a candle with a line, or “wick”, that represents highs and lows and a rectangle that marks opening and closing prices. Volume candlestick charts use the width of the rectangle to indicate volume. The higher the volume, the wider the candle.

Recommended: Candlestick Patterns Every Trader Should Know

How Traders Can Use Volume

We’ve already seen that volume can help investors understand when a price trend is picking up steam. There are a few other basic guidelines investors may want to consider as they’re deciding when to buy and sell.

Exhaustion Moves

Exhaustion moves occur when there is a sharp movement in the price of stock coupled with a sharp increase in trading volume. This potentially signals the end of a current price trend. These moments can be accompanied by a period of volatility.

Price Reversals

If the price of a stock has moved in one direction for a long time and volume begins to increase at the same time that prices start to move very little, it can signal a reversal. So if stock prices were on an upward trajectory, changes start to slow and volume increases, it might mean the trend is about to reverse.

Breakouts

A breakout is a point at which changes in market trends occur. Changes in volume can clue investors into the strength of the breakout. Little change in volume suggests investors are paying the breakout little heed, while big changes in volume indicate a strong new trend.

Bullish Signals

Volume can also help investors identify bullish signs that suggest prices are likely to rise. For example, say stock prices increase and then decline. At the same time there is an increase in volume which drives prices up again. The stock again declines, but if it doesn’t decline the second time as much as it did the first time, it may be a bullish signal that prices will continue to rise.

Types of Indicators to Measure Stock Volume

There are a number of volume indicators that can help traders make investment decisions based on their approach and goals. Here are a few examples.

On Balance Volume (OBV)

On balance volume is a cumulative indicator in which volume is added on days when overall volume is up and subtracted on days when overall volume is down. The direction of the indicator is what is most important to investors. When price and OBV are moving up or down together, it is likely the trend will increase in strength.

Volume Price Trend (VPT)

Similar to OBV, volume price trend measures cumulative volume. However, it differs in that it considers a percentage increase or decrease in price. VPT helps investors relate share price to trading volume. If the price of a stock increases, so does the value of the indicator. If prices fall, the indicator value falls, too.

Ease of Movement

This indicator helps traders see how easy it is for a stock price to move between levels based on trading volumes. Stocks that continue along a trend for a given period are considered “easy.” This indicator is used over longer time periods and in volatile markets in which it can be hard to spot trends.

The Takeaway

Stock trading volume measures the amount of stocks traded in a given day or time period. Examining volume and other tools in technical analysis can help investors make decisions about when to buy and sell stocks.

When buying any individual security, investors should consider how it fits into their overall financial plan, including their goals, risk tolerance, and time horizon. Investors interested in taking a hands-on approach to investing may want to open an online stock trading account with SoFi Invest®. You can make trades in the convenient app, with no commission fees.

Find out how to get started with SoFi Invest.

Photo credit: iStock/shapecharge


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