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The answer to this question states: "current stock price … is actually the price of the last trade. It is a historical price…"

The last trade had a buyer and seller. The buyer paid the "ask" price, and the seller received the "bid" price.

My question is, how is the "last trade" related to the bid and ask price for that trade? For example, is the current price the last ask price or the last bid price? Or, is it the average of the two? Or, is it something else?

For most stocks I wouldn't worry about the small difference between the three prices. But, now I'm looking at a penny stock that has wild fluctuations and a huge bid ask spread. So, when I'm looking at the current and historic prices, I'm curious to know if those are the prices people paid or the prices people received, or what exactly they are.

I tried to find the answer myself by comparing historic bid, ask, and last trade prices. But, I couldn't find that and the answers to this question suggests that historic bid and ask prices are not freely available.

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The buyer paid the same price that the seller received. Though trades occur intermittently, the bid and ask price are defined at every moment based on buy and sell orders that are unfilled. So a trade occurs when either a buyer meets the current ask (thereby filling that existing sell order) or a seller meets the current bid (thereby filling that existing buy order). Basic quotes do not distinguish which of these occurred. But each trade is at either the bid or the ask. The bid and ask can subsequently change before another trade occurs.

  • Thanks. Apparently I was confused how a trade works. I thought a single trade was between a buyer and seller with a market maker in between that got paid the bid-ask spread. No? Is a single trade always between a market maker and a buyer or a seller? So, a trade has only one price. And, when they say the bid-ask spread goes to the market maker, that doesn't happen in one trade. It takes two trades for the market maker to make money. Is that right? I'm looking at this question. – tbird Feb 9 at 23:12
  • A single trade is between a buyer and seller. The market maker may be on the other side of the trade or another investor/trader may be the counter party. If the B/A is $5.00 x $5.25 then the market maker only gets the 25 cents if there is no price improvement on either side and people are willing to trade at the current B/A (takers). If you bid $5.01 to buy then the quote becomes $5.01 x $5.25 and you are the maker on the bid side. – Bob Baerker Feb 10 at 2:12
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The answer by Chris in your link explains it. Just to repeat:

  • The current price is the price of the last trade
  • The last trade occurred at the bid or ask price
  • The buyer paid the ask price or the seller received the bid price

If you look at Time and Sales, you can observe a trade's execution price and compare it to the most recent bid and ask quote on the order book. That will indicate which side the trade most likely occurred on. I say most likely because combo orders may stray from this but that's not applicable to you since you're asking about a penny stock.

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