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I have read the questions and answers about historical data from sites like Google and Yahoo! Finance (which has been dis-improved, imo, in 2016.) My question is this: Exactly how are closing price data-points adjusted for dividends? What is the relationship between ex-div and pay date or dividends with respect to the adjustments these sites are making? If a historical price-point is adjusted for dividends does that mean that if a company pays 12 times per year, that the historical prices that are 13 months old have been adjusted for the 12 dividends that have happened since then? If one wants info about a stock from one point in time to another point in time without assuming the stock is still held, are these historical quotes "valid" at all?

"Back in the day" one used to be able to go to the library and look up the stock quotes for End of Day from a newspaper in the Reference section of the library and get the Actual Close Price, not adjusted for anything and when you went back 3 years later, the newspaper from that day would still have the same information on that date. These adjusted price-points may be useful for prospective investors, but they don't seem to be historical. I also find that these adjusted quotes are reported through sites like NASDAQ.com, which would seem to be a site with access to data that is closer to the source than Yahoo! or Google.

  • What makes you think Google and Yahoo finance are adjusting price quotes for dividend payments? – quid Aug 8 '16 at 17:50
  • finance.yahoo.com/quote/STAG/history?p=STAG That will show the past year of Open/High/Low and "Adjusted Close" for STAG which pays monthly dividends. At the bottom of the page it says "*Close price adjusted for dividends and splits." and I want to know exactly what adjustment is made for a dividend. If I set the bounds to 8/1/2013 until 8/1/2014 and the Close prices are Adjusted, how are they adjusted? If they are adjusted so as to account for dividends paid between 8/2/2014 and the present then the inquiry is seriously flawed but changing the dates doesn't change the prices either. – R T Aug 8 '16 at 19:02
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    It is possible, but uncommon, for a company to pay out dividends in stock. For example paying 1/10 of a share for every share held. This is like an 11 for 10 split. That is probably the style dividend that is being adjusted for. – Shannon Severance Aug 8 '16 at 20:02
  • @quid: Because they said so. BTW, this is a relatively new practice. – Tom Au Aug 8 '16 at 22:57
  • @TomAu, Sure, the "Adjusted" column is adjusted, and right next to it is the unadjusted close price. R T is insinuating that an unadjusted close value isn't available. – quid Aug 9 '16 at 0:27
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Various types of corporate actions will precipitate a price adjustment. In the case of dividends, the cash that will be paid out as a dividend to share holders forms part of a company's equity. Once the company pays a dividend, that cash is no longer part of the company's equity and the share price is adjusted accordingly.

For example, if Apple is trading at $101 per share at the close of business on the day prior to going ex-dividend, and a dividend of $1 per share has been declared, then the closing price will be adjusted by $1 to give a closing quote of $100.

Although the dividend is not paid out until the dividend pay date, the share price is adjusted at the close of business on the day prior to the ex-dividend date since any new purchases on or after the ex-dividend date are not entitled to receive the dividend distribution, so in effect new purchases are buying on the basis of a reduced equity.

It will be the exchange providing the quote that performs the price adjustment, not Google or Yahoo. The exchange will perform the adjustment at the close prior to each ex-dividend date, so when you are looking at historical data you are looking at price data that includes each adjustment.

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If you download the historical data from Yahoo, you will see two different close prices. The one labeled 'Close' is simply the price that was quoted on that particular day. The one labeled 'Adj Close' is the close price that has been adjusted for any splits and dividends that have occurred after that date.

For example, if a stock splits 10:1 on a particular date, then the adjusted close for all dates prior to that split will have been divided by 10. If a dividend is paid, then all dates prior will have that amount subtracted from their adjusted quote. Using the adjusted close allows you to compare any two dates and see the true relative return.

  • That was with the "old" Y!F pages. Now there is only the "Adjusted Close" (no regular Close). If you inquire on a date range that doesn't include "now" and look at the adjusted close values and second date range that contains more of the recent past but still not the present, the adjusted close values are the same, so the past is hopelessly wrong by being adjusted for dividends not in the period being inquired for? – R T Aug 8 '16 at 20:12
  • I think you and Shannon Severance are on to something, though: if the only kinds of dividends being adjusted for are "share dividends" as executed by Google and Zillow, for example, then the Adjusted Close value would be acceptable. Of course without the two different values being reported anymore, I'll have to keep searching for a data source to verify that. – R T Aug 8 '16 at 20:21
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    Yahoo has indeed removed the regular Close from the web display, but if you click 'Download Data" to get it in a csv file, that does still includes both the Close and Adj Close. – RaskaRuby Aug 8 '16 at 23:00
  • that is a very useful piece of information! Thanks. – R T Aug 8 '16 at 23:04
  • Okay, so look at this: docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/… what this shows is that Y!F is actually showing the "Un-adjusted close" but labeling it "Adjusted Close" when you match the display pages with the download data. – R T Aug 8 '16 at 23:43
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According to Active Equity Management by Zhou and Jain:

When a stock pays dividend, the adjusted price in Yahoo makes the following adjustment:

Let T be the ex-dividend date (the first date that the buyers of a stock will not receive the dividend) and T-1 be the last trading day before T. All prices before T are adjusted by a multiplier (C_{T-1} - d_T)/C_{T-1}, where C_{T-1} is the close price at T-1 and d_T is the dividend per share.

This, of course means that the price before T decreases.

  • Thank you! This is a very exact answer regarding the adjustments. As you understand it, does this mean that the adjusted close is being adjusted back to "the dawn of time" every time a dividend is declared, or is this something that only affects the window between the ex-div date and the prior ex-div date? Also, are there points in time at which there are no adjusted closes that do not match the "regular close" values? I just downloaded the SPY historical data from Y!F for Jan 2008 to this past Friday, and the 2 columns are identical on every single day in the 9+ years... – R T May 14 '17 at 13:46
  • Can you provide a link for the download? I didn't see your answer. – Veliko May 18 '17 at 14:25
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I had both closing price and adjusted price of Apple showing the same amount after "download data" csv file was opened in excel.

https://finance.yahoo.com/quote/AAPL/history?period1=1463599361&period2=1495135361&interval=div%7Csplit&filter=split&frequency=1d

Its frustrating. My last option was to get the dividends history of the stock and add back to the adjusted price to compute the total return for a select stock for the period.

  • I agree! Yahoo! Finance used to be so good as a resource and now they are not paying any attention to what they do... – R T May 19 '17 at 16:32

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