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Introduction to Level II (level 2, L2, L II, Lii)

post #1 of 179
Thread Starter 
You have probably heard of Level 2 quotes and are wondering what they are, how to use them and how to get them. Good news! All your questions will now be answered.

When you get a normal stock quote, you see the price of the last trade, the volume and the change from the previous price, this can be called a Level 1 quote.

Level 2 (L2, LII) is an essential tool that any serious trader requires. L2 lets you look behind the scenes at what is going on beyond the current bid and ask of a stock and gives you a clear snapshot of how much demand and supply there is at that precise moment in time.

The most basic and fundamental rule of the markets is that there are only two things which make any stock move, supply and demand.

-If there is a lot of demand for a stock, the price will go up.
-If there is a lot of supply, a stock will go down.
-If demand matches supply, the stock will go sideways.

Congratulations, you now know the secret of the stock markets!

Understanding Level II

To begin understanding level II you must understand how an open market works.

Let us use an example of your neighbor Frank who is selling his car for $5000.

You friend Lisa wants to buy his car, but lowballs the offer at $4800. Your other friend John also wants to buy the car, and since he knows that Lisa offered $4800, he has to offer a better price to get it, so he comes in at $4900.

As it turns out, your other neighbor Bob has the exact same car for sale, he heard that Frank is selling his for $5000, but Bob wants to get rid of his car fast, so he prices it at $4950.

What we have here is a market of two buyers and two sellers. If this car sale had a level II quote, it would look like this:

Buyers ----------- Sellers
JOHN $4900 | BOB $4950
LISA $4800 | FRANK $5000

Does this look like something you have seen somewhere before? (hint: image above)

You can clearly see that John is the highest bidder and Bob is the lowest seller. Odds are if John wanted to grab the car now, he would just meet Bobs price of $4950 (aka hitting the ask), or if Bob wanted to get rid of his car quickly, he could just sell at the highest bid (hitting the bid).

Now imagine this scenario playing out hundreds of times every minute with hundreds of buyers and sellers and now you understand level II.

Level II is essentially an order book for Nasdaq stocks, OTCBB and Pinks also have level II, but you will not find NYSE showing level II.

Instead of John, Bob, Lisa and Frank showing up as buyers and sellers, we have what are called Market Makers or MM’s. When you place an order with your broker, he will route your order through an MM. The MM acts on your brokers behalf, placing the bid or matching the trade for you, in effect, you control the MM. These MM’s your online broker is using are most likely not people sitting at a desk punching away at their keyboards, but rather, an ECN (electronic communications networks), examples of ECNs are NITE, ISLD and ARCA.
post #2 of 179
Thread Starter 
There are basically three different types of players on the level II screen, they are:

• Market Makers (MM) – With most stocks and specifically penny stocks, the MM’s are firms that provide liquidity in the market. They have an inventory of shares and will match orders for other firms and trade for themselves, profiting off the spread (difference between the bid and the ask). In essence, they make the market, this the name.

• Electronic Communication Networks (ECN) - Electronic communication networks are automated systems designed to match buyers and sellers. Anybody from a large financial institutions to small traders like you and me can trade through ECN’s.

• Wholesalers (Order flow firms) – Your online broker will have a relationship with a Market Maker, or several MM’s depending on how much business they do. Brokers who handle large orders may choose to sell this order flow to a wholesaler who will execute them on their behalf. If for example you had a really large order to sell stock in thinly traded WXYZ, your broker does not have the time to sit there all day and make sure you get the best price, he will pass it on to the wholesaler who will take care of it for them.

Examples of useful info you get from Level II

By watching L2 you can see what retail or institutional traders are doing at the moment in time. For example, if you see a large firm like MLCO (Merrill Lynch) repeatedly buying heavily, that could be considered a positive for your stock as opposed to seeing MLCO on the sell side.

Watching a realtime chart in conjunction with L2, you may notice things like each time your stock hits a specific price, a certain MM comes in and supports it, but only when it drops to that price. This could be seen as quiet accumulation or support for the stock, which is a good sign.

Entries and Exits:

To get the most out of your level II quotes, you need to be able to spot entry and exits using technical analysis. You can find my TA tutorial here: http://www.hotstockmarket.com/forums...ad.php?t=27430

Combining TA with L2 will yield some important results. If you can use TA to find a favorable entry, watch your L2 screen as the important pivot points are met. You will note that retail MM’s start coming into the stock at specific points, these are most likely other traders who are using the same signals. Being aware of the support levels and jumping in ahead of other traders will give you an advantage. The same can be said for exit levels.


Let us say you have done your technical analysis and think INTC is a good buy at $32.50 but you see on your charts that there is a resistance level at $33. Check you level II screen... Hmmm.. look at that. Since you are not the only trader on the planet who uses technical analysis, it seems that there are bunch of other traders who also feel that $33 is a good place to sell, but rather than be so obvious, they have come in below the technical level and are trying to sell at $32.62. This information, combined with your TA is a clear signal that you should not be buying INTC in this area, if anything, you should be going short.

Sneaky Tactics:

Scenerio 1:

Let us say for example that you are Bill Gates and you want to buy 10M shares INTC. Would you a) put in an order for 10M shares or b) put in an order for 100,000 shares and try buy it in small amounts?

Answer ‘b’ is correct. If you simply waltz into the market and put up a huge bid, other traders watching L2 will take this as a signal of strong demand for INTC and start bidding it up, thus causing it to go higher. Accumulating it quietly in small blocks would be the more logical approach if you want to get in at a low price.

Scenerio 2:

You are still Bill Gates, you own 10M shares of INTC that you accumulated quietly, but now you want to sell it as high as possible. Do you a) sell it in small blocks as to not attract attention, or b) flash a huge bid for 10M shares (place the bid well below market, then retract the bid), thus make traders thing there is demand and make them run the stock?

Because Bill is sneaky, he will most likely choose ‘b’, and run the stock, and sell into the fake demand he created. Keep in mind that these tactics are used on both the buy and sell side, so shorters can flash a huge ask, scare people into selling and play the opposite side.

There are plenty of other scenarios will become aware of as you watch what MM’s do during the trading day.

Here we see Merrill Lynch flashing a big bid of 30,000 shares at $32.55, when traders see this kind of thing we think "holy cow! somebody at Merrill wants a boat load of shares, Im going to jump infront of him and he will have to buy them higher up, thus causing the stock to rise!" But hang on! There is MLCO on the sell side with 1000 shares, it could be that MLCO will pull that bid once he gets to sell his shares at $32.59... Keep an eye open for these things.

Getting Level II Quotes

Your current broker will most likely offer you level II quotes with your account if you are an active trader. If you broker does not offer it, you can always get level II from Microcapfeed which is our partner site for level II and screeners.


Level II is an essential tool in your trading arsenal. If you are an active trader or just looking for the best entry and exits on your trades, you need to understand both technical analysis and level II.

From here, I suggest you go read RGhonaims 'Exploring Level 2' tutorial:
post #3 of 179
Great post. Good read.
post #4 of 179
Thread Starter 
cut n paste:

The In-Depth picture of the supply and demand for a particular stock

What's Level II all about?

Let's answer this with an example: Level II is exactly like watching what happens behind the scenes of a movie. In this case, all the group involved into the creation of the movie are the Market Makers (MMs). The people buying the tickets for the movie are us, the stock traders.

What to look for on Level II? When watching a movie behind the scenes, you listen to the producer and the star to see what they have to say about it. On Level II, we are looking for the "producer" and the "star" of the action going on, in this case, the key MMs.


1. Each MM has his own name abbreviation composed of 4 letters, these can be found in the link below, sorted from A to Z: http://tinyurl.com/2drf7

2. After the end of the month, a monthly share volume report for every stock comes out indicating the number of shares bought and sold by the MMs playing the stock. Hence, these reports are one month delayed.

a) Report for OTCBB listed stocks: http://tinyurl.com/4btzc

b) Report for NASDAQ listed stocks: http://tinyurl.com/6vkxh


MM (Marker Maker) : The Market Maker buys and sells the stock to brokerage firms.

Ax : The ax is the MM that is in control on the supply/demand of a security or a stock. I also like to call that particular MM "the leader".

CD (Convertible Debenture) : A Convertible Debenture can be converted into trading stock at the option of the holder and/or the issuer at a specified date in the future.

ECN (Electronic Communication Network) : It is an electronic system that brings buyers and sellers together for the electronic execution of trades. It disseminates information to interested parties about the orders entered into the network and allows these orders to be executed.

2 Important filling terms meaning dilution on a stock :

1. S-8 : These are shares paid out by the company for services.

2. SB-2 : These are optionally sold shares by the company to the public via small business issuers.

III) The Axes

These are the key players you look for on Level II. It is basically the main MM that always seems to be supporting the bid driving it up, or hitting the ask and driving the PPS down. It is the party who seems to be controlling the action in the stock. The ax isn't always trading the stock in one direction or another. Sometime he is keeping it in a tight range and sometimes he is not there at all and another ax may step forward. Note that there are times where there is no ax present. The point is the ax is the one to watch closer than all other parties or MMs. When you learn to trade with the ax your odds greatly increase.

NOTE : The Axes are usually the ones responsible for S-8 share selling, they will be consistent on the ask until the S-8 is completed. Once that particular MM starts supporting bid, it means that the S-8 is getting close to completion. In the case of viable companies, this is usually followed by a SHARP RISE in the PPS, known as an s-8 bounce.

So how do we find the ax ?

The best way to find the ax is through familiarity of the stock. By taking the time to watch the stock trade via Level II the ax will usually become quite apparent. But since we want info now and not wait days to find out, there's a shortcut. It's no substitute for watching the action, but it can at least give you a lead on a few parties to watch closer than others or MMs: The Monthly Share Report.

The key on these share reports is to NARROW THE SELECTION; generally look at the top 5 spots on the report, don't count the ECNs since many other players can use them to buy or sell shares. Don't count retail ECNs like GVRC for this similar reason, and also since most of the traffic is retail. Get rid of unnecessary small MMs since it will not happen that a little guy is going to control a stock.

Note that the ax is not static. On any given day any party can be an ax, there may be one ax in the morning and another in the afternoon and neither of them could be listed in the top ten of the monthly share volume report.

If a big order comes onto the trading desk of a firm that doesn't do big volume in a certain name, the ax will take care of it and command the action.

An ax can easily use an ECN to hide much of their action. They can and will use fake outs. Keeping an eye on Level II will reveal the ax, use the monthly share volume report as a confirmation to your observation.

Example of finding the ax on WNMI : In February, the axes CHIG and UCAP weren't on the report. The run started late march, remember this report is a month delayed. You can get some more DD out of who is diluting by checking S-8's and SB2 fillings, then by looking at the chart before the stock broke out, notice who was soaking more shares than others.
post #5 of 179
Because people like you I love HSM, Learning never ends.
Thank you
post #6 of 179
this is great.. thanks
post #7 of 179
Man i really I really needed this you guys are the best!
post #8 of 179
Nice write up sir. Thanks!
post #9 of 179
That really helped, all of the info you guys give is great!!
post #10 of 179
You guys rock I really appreciate all the info you put out Thanks very much!!
post #11 of 179
Solid read, ty
post #12 of 179
Great info, I knew some of this but not all of it. Thank you for taking the time to help. Obviously, I'd like to make money and not lose it and this will really help.

post #13 of 179
ameritrade dosnt offer lv 2 quotes for otcpinks microcaptrade.com is 100 a month but need l2 any of the other online brokers offer l2 for otc
post #14 of 179
My head is spinning. I have so much learning to do. Thanks for the info. You guys are great.
post #15 of 179
Originally Posted by mrgrimm88
ameritrade dosnt offer lv 2 quotes for otcpinks microcaptrade.com is 100 a month but need l2 any of the other online brokers offer l2 for otc
Mr. Grimm,
I got online this morning with the intention to buy 1500 shares of NDOL in the $1.30 range. I had the sell window set up and the curser over the "place order" button, but before I executed the trade, I pulled up the L2 and saw the ask and the bid prices falling like a rock. I held off on the purchase, and within 10 minutes I executed my order at $0.65. That is half the PPS I had planned to spend. My only mistake was that I forgot to up the share size based on the reduced PPS I was now paying. Thats ok though, with the $1000 I saved by watching L2, I was able to get over and buy up a bunch of WWEN and AURC.

My point is...the $100 for MCT is well worth it, it saved me $1000 just today, besides, it also has a lot of other useful features as well.

Thanks StockEJock, RPM, Daradawg, and all the others for the great tutorials.
post #16 of 179

L2 Question.

Why is it that in this L2 the bid and ask are both below the last traded price and continued to remain that way? Also why would the company at the bottom on each have those two blocks set up that way?
post #17 of 179
mwse doesn't want action thats all
post #18 of 179
Originally Posted by alphuris

Why is it that in this L2 the bid and ask are both below the last traded price and continued to remain that way? Also why would the company at the bottom on each have those two blocks set up that way?

MWSE is like reserving a slot on the trading floor but without action. Waiting for the orders of his broekrage firm to come by him.

As for the bid and ask below the last:
They are negociating a lower last price and sometimes because of a huge volume block
post #19 of 179
Great post. Thanks a lot.

Can somebody explain this.

1a &b) I was looking at Level II and noticed that for bid size, there were 2 options to choose from ie 'bid size as shown in Level I' or 'Inside bid size'.

I always thought that Level I bid size should be the size for best bid, thus 'bid size as shown in Level I' and 'Inside bid size' should be the same. But I noticed that they were different. So what's the difference? Is it also important if I see the bid size remain constant (whether it is the 'bid size as shown in Level I' or 'inside bid size')?

2) On Level II, I also noticed that sometimes there is no name for the exchange description but there is a price there. What does that mean?

post #20 of 179
Thank you for this great lesson, until now I had NO idea what the the members meant when they mention MM's and L2 on the posts
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