The Ticker Tape, Stock Indices, and Other Media 94 Time Delay Finally, be aware that the information on the ticker tapes is always released to investment houses and brokers first. Only after a 15-minute delay is the information released to the general public at large. In addition, the introduction of the computerized quote machine now used by most brokers enables them to access greater amounts of information in real time, or virtually up to the second the trade is made. Although these innovations will further make the ticker tape obsolete, its future ex- istence is nevertheless almost certainly guaranteed, not by what it is capable of providing but out of respect for the heights to which its past performance has brought the United States markets. The Indices Attempting to understand the movements of the market as a whole is a difficult if not an impossible task. However, understanding these movements, as well as the reasons for them, is fundamental to making projections for individual stocks and grasping their performances within the parameters of their circumstances. In other words, you've got to know how the stocks have done before you can guess how they will do. Furthermore, you've got to know the conditions of the playing field before you can decide whether their earlier efforts are any indication of future performance under the same or different circumstances. Indices, as a result of their remarkable accuracy rate, are the most accepted measurement for information about a stock's health. As an investor, you are charged with checking the performance of your stock by assembling several indications of various aspects of your stock's health, thereby creating an overall financial health picture. This overall picture is very much like a grade point aver- age or a financial market index. Here are the indices to consult: · · · · · · · Dow Jones Average NASDAQ National Market System Composite Index Standard & Poor's 500 AMEX Market Value Index NYSE Composite Index Russell Indices Wilshire 5000 Equity Index Plain English The indices are indicators of value changes in representative stock groupings. An index is composed of a predetermined number of stocks whose prices are combined and averaged either on the number of figures or on an earlier established benchmark. An index compiles the prices of representative stocks to obtain an overall average of the health of the market being indexed. Think of it this way: Let's say you are the principal of a small elementary school for grades one through six. You want to discover the effectiveness of the new teaching methods you have implemented in order to determine whether or not you will continue to invest money in these initiatives. You could give every student in the school a before and an after test and then compile and compare that data. The logistics and administration of the tests could quickly become horrific though, depending on the number of students. Also, you couldn't really compare the data from grade to grade, since each grade would require a different test to correspond to the varying levels of ability.