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Liquidity in the financial markets refers to how rapidly a stock may be sold without lowering its price.If an investment is more liquid, it can be sold more quickly (and vice versa), and selling it for fair value or current market value is easier. More liquid assets trade at a premium and less liquid assets trade at a discount, all else being equal.

A company's liquidity is a measure of how quickly it can meet its short-term financial obligations in accounting and financial analysis.

Understanding Liquidity

Liquidity, then, is the extent to which an asset may be quickly bought or sold on the market at a price reflecting its intrinsic value. Due to its ease and speed of conversion into other assets, cash is regarded as the most liquid asset.Examples of tangible goods that are quite illiquid are real estate, fine art, and collectibles. Various financial assets fall at various points throughout the liquidity spectrum, from stocks to partnership units.


Cash is the asset that can be utilized to buy something most readily, like a $1,000 refrigerator. The likelihood of finding someone willing to exchange them the refrigerator for their collection is slim if they have no cash but a rare book collection worth $1,000. They will have to sell the collection instead, then use the proceeds to pay for the refrigerator. If the person has months or years to wait before making the purchase, it might be okay, but if the person only had a few days, it might be problematic. Instead of waiting for a buyer who was prepared to pay the full amount, they might have to sell the books at a discount. One illustration of an illiquid asset is rare books.

Market Liquidity

Market liquidity is the degree to which an item can be purchased and sold at predictable, open prices on a market, such as the stock exchange of a nation or the real estate market of a city. In the aforementioned case, the market for refrigerators in exchange for rare books is so unviable that it essentially doesn't exist.

The stock market, on the other hand, has a higher amount of market liquidity. If an exchange has a sizable volume of transactions that are not predominantly sales, the price a buyer offers per share (the bid price) and the price a seller is willing to accept (the ask price) will be relatively near to one another.

Accounting Liquidity

Accounting liquidity assesses an individual's or an organization's capacity to pay off obligations when they become due using the liquid assets at their disposal.

In the aforementioned scenario, the rare book collector's possessions are somewhat illiquid and presumably wouldn't be of their entire $1,000 value in an emergency. In the context of investments, evaluating accounting liquidity entails contrasting liquid assets with current liabilities, or debts that are due within a year.

Measuring Liquidity

Financial analysts assess a company's capacity to meet short-term obligations with liquid assets. In general, a ratio greater than one is preferred when applying these calculations.

Current Ratio: The easiest and most flexible is the current ratio. It compares current obligations to current assets (those that may theoretically be converted to cash in one year). The equation would be:

Current Ratio = Current Assets / Current Liabilities

Quick Ratio (Acid-test ratio): The fast ratio, often known as the acid-test ratio, is a little stricter. In contrast to short-term investments, cash and cash equivalents, and accounts receivable, inventories and other current assets are excluded since they are less liquid. The equation is:

Quick Ratio = (Cash & Equivalents + Short-Term Investments + Accounts Receivable) / Current Liabilities

Acid-Test Ratio (Variation): The quick/acid-test ratio can be made a little more forgiving by just deducting inventory from current assets:

Acid-Test Ratio (Variation) = (Current Assets - Inventories - Prepaid Costs) / Current Liabilities

Cash Ratio: Among all the liquidity measurements, the cash ratio requires the highest precision. It defines liquid assets strictly as cash or cash equivalents, excluding accounts receivable, inventory, and other current assets.

Cash Ratio = Cash and Cash Equivalents / Current Liabilities


  • The ease with which a security or asset can be converted into available cash without impacting its market price is referred to as liquidity.
  • Currency is the most movable asset; tangibles are less movable. The two fundamental types of liquidity are market and accounting liquidity.
  • Liquidity is typically assessed using current, quick, and cash ratios.
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