Bid-Ask Spread: A Complete Guide | Motilal Oswal

Bid-Ask Spread: A Complete Guide

The Bid-Ask spread plays an important role as a crucial indicator of market fluctuations and trading costs. For investors and traders to assess the liquidity and trading costs of specific securities and make educated decisions, it is essential to understand bid-ask spread works. But what exactly is the bid-ask spread, and why is it significant? Let’s see what it is and the ways to calculate it.

What are Bid and Ask prices?

Bid and ask prices serve as the intermediaries between the two parties in a transaction and are crucial in establishing an asset's market value. It's crucial to understand what bid and ask prices mean before moving on to the calculation of the bid-ask spread:

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Bid Price: 

It is the highest sum a buyer is ready to offer for a security at any given time. It symbolizes the demand for security.

Ask Price:

It is the minimum sum at which a seller is willing to sell a security at any given time. It symbolizes the security's current availability.

How to calculate Bid-Ask spread?

Let's consider an example of how to calculate the bid-ask spread.

Suppose you are looking to buy shares of ABC Ltd., and you check the current bid and ask prices for the stock. At a given moment, you see the following:

Bid Price for ABC Ltd.: ₹150 per share

Ask Price for ABC Ltd.: ₹152 per share

Now, you can calculate the bid-ask spread using the formula:

Bid-Ask Spread = Ask Price - Bid Price

In this case,

Bid-Ask Spread = ₹152 (Ask Price) - ₹150 (Bid Price) = ₹2

So, the bid-ask spread for ABC Ltd. in this scenario is ₹2 per share.

It means that if you were to buy shares of ABC Ltd. immediately, you would likely pay ₹152 per share (the asking price), but if you were to sell those shares right away, you would receive ₹150 per share (the bid price). The difference of ₹2 per share represents the cost or spread associated with the transaction.

Advantages of Bid-Ask spread

Bid-ask spread influences some major areas in finance that include: 

  • Liquidity: A narrow spread signals high liquidity, easing trade execution. A wider spread implies lower liquidity, posing challenges for trading.
  • Transaction Costs: The spread directly impacts costs; smaller spreads are favored by cost-conscious traders.
  • Market Conditions: Spreads fluctuate with market dynamics. High volatility and low volumes wide spreads, affecting entry and exit costs.
  • Market Makers: These intermediaries narrow spreads by quoting bid and ask prices consistently, ensuring market liquidity while profiting from the difference.

To conclude

Understanding bid and ask prices and their interplay is essential for informed investments. Spreads can change swiftly, underlining the need for real-time market fluctuations for effective trading and investing.


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