One of the things that might be confusing about the stock market for dummies is the closing price for stocks and the after hours price.

The closing price you see in the newspapers is the 4:00 PM price of the stock which is when the market officially closes. However, there is some after hours activity that normal investors like you and I don't get involved in. Usually this activity is not very important to the price of the stock unless some big earnings announcement is made or some big important news story happens after 4:00 PM.

The New York stock exchange, with the proliferation of news and people's access to it, has become a more global entity in recent years. The Internet and ease of making trades from anywhere in the world has contributed to this. Information of all sorts is available all the time to anyone who wants it and this means some changes were made in the after hours of the stock exchange. This means that there is now after hours activity and things going on behind the scenes that "normal" investors can't get involved with unless they know how.

If you have a stock that closes at 100 and then announces great earnings, you will see the price go up on all the tickers online and maybe on television. The next morning, even though the stock closed at 100 the day before, it may open much higher and you will have to buy it at that higher number. The same goes for bad news being announced as stocks can go down in after hours too.

By looking to see if there is any activity in a stock after the market closes, one can usually determine whether anything important has happened to the stock since the close. If you see the price of a stock being quoted higher or lower in after hours by a significant amount, it can often mean they announced great earnings or made some other important announcement like a merger or new product.

The after hours price of a stock is not something you should get too caught up in or worry about in my opinion. After all, you should be buying stocks as an investment and if a small movement in a stock's price after hours is going to influence your decision, then maybe you should find a stock where you expect bigger gains.