Stock Market Report Essay Difference
A stock market, equity market or share market is the aggregation of buyers and sellers (a loose network of economic transactions, not a physical facility or discrete entity) of stocks (also called shares), which represent ownership claims on businesses; these may include securities listed on a public stock exchange as well as those only traded privately. Examples of the latter include shares of private companies which are sold to investors through equity crowdfunding platforms. Stock exchanges list shares of common equity as well as other security types, e.g. corporate bonds and convertible bonds.
Size of the market
Stocks are categorised in various ways. One way is by the country where the company is domiciled. For example, Nestlé and Novartis are domiciled in Switzerland, so they may be considered as part of the Swiss stock market, although their stock may also be traded on exchanges in other countries, for example, as American depository receipts (ADRs) on U.S. stock markets.
As of mid 2017, the size of the world stock market (total market capitalisation) was about US$76.3 trillion. By country, the largest market was the United States (about 34%), followed by Japan (about 6%) and the United Kingdom (about 6%). These numbers increased in 2013.
As of 2015, there are a total of 60 stock exchanges in the world with a total market capitalization of $69 trillion. Of these, there are 16 exchanges with a market capitalization of $1 trillion or more, and they account for 87% of global market capitalization. Apart from the Australian Securities Exchange, these 16 exchanges are based in one of three continents: North America, Europe and Asia.
Main article: Stock exchange
A stock exchange is an exchange (or bourse)[note 1] where stock brokers and traders can buy and sell shares of stock, bonds, and other securities. Many large companies have their stocks listed on a stock exchange. This makes the stock more liquid and thus more attractive to many investors. The exchange may also act as a guarantor of settlement. Other stocks may be traded "over the counter" (OTC), that is, through a dealer. Some large companies will have their stock listed on more than one exchange in different countries, so as to attract international investors.
Stock exchanges may also cover other types of securities, such as fixed interest securities (bonds) or (less frequently) derivatives which are more likely to be traded OTC.
Trade in stock markets means the transfer for money of a stock or security from a seller to a buyer. This requires these two parties to agree on a price. Equities (stocks or shares) confer an ownership interest in a particular company.
Participants in the stock market range from small individual stock investors to larger trader investors, who can be based anywhere in the world, and may include banks, insurance companies, pension funds and hedge funds. Their buy or sell orders may be executed on their behalf by a stock exchange trader.
Some exchanges are physical locations where transactions are carried out on a trading floor, by a method known as open outcry. This method is used in some stock exchanges and commodity exchanges, and involves traders shouting bid and offer prices. The other type of stock exchange has a network of computers where trades are made electronically. An example of such an exchange is the NASDAQ.
A potential buyer bids a specific price for a stock, and a potential seller asks a specific price for the same stock. Buying or selling at the market means you will accept any ask price or bid price for the stock. When the bid and ask prices match, a sale takes place, on a first-come, first-served basis if there are multiple bidders or askers at a given price.
The purpose of a stock exchange is to facilitate the exchange of securities between buyers and sellers, thus providing a marketplace. The exchanges provide real-time trading information on the listed securities, facilitating price discovery.
The New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) is a physical exchange, with a hybrid market for placing orders electronically from any location as well as on the trading floor. Orders executed on the trading floor enter by way of exchange members and flow down to a floor broker, who submits the order electronically to the floor trading post for the Designated Market Maker ("DMM") for that stock to trade the order. The DMM's job is to maintain a two-sided market, making orders to buy and sell the security when there are no other buyers or sellers. If a spread exists, no trade immediately takes place – in this case the DMM may use their own resources (money or stock) to close the difference. Once a trade has been made, the details are reported on the "tape" and sent back to the brokerage firm, which then notifies the investor who placed the order. Computers play an important role, especially for program trading.
The NASDAQ is a virtual exchange, where all of the trading is done over a computer network. The process is similar to the New York Stock Exchange. One or more NASDAQ market makers will always provide a bid and ask price at which they will always purchase or sell 'their' stock.
The Paris Bourse, now part of Euronext, is an order-driven, electronic stock exchange. It was automated in the late 1980s. Prior to the 1980s, it consisted of an open outcry exchange. Stockbrokers met on the trading floor of the Palais Brongniart. In 1986, the CATS trading system was introduced, and the order matching process was fully automated.
People trading stock will prefer to trade on the most popular exchange since this gives the largest number of potential counterparties (buyers for a seller, sellers for a buyer) and probably the best price. However, there have always been alternatives such as brokers trying to bring parties together to trade outside the exchange. Some third markets that were popular are Instinet, and later Island and Archipelago (the latter two have since been acquired by Nasdaq and NYSE, respectively). One advantage is that this avoids the commissions of the exchange. However, it also has problems such as adverse selection. Financial regulators are probing dark pools.
Market participants include individual retail investors, institutional investors such as mutual funds, banks, insurance companies and hedge funds, and also publicly traded corporations trading in their own shares. Some studies have suggested that institutional investors and corporations trading in their own shares generally receive higher risk-adjusted returns than retail investors.
A few decades ago, most buyers and sellers were individual investors, such as wealthy businessmen, usually with long family histories to particular corporations. Over time, markets have become more "institutionalized"; buyers and sellers are largely institutions (e.g., pension funds, insurance companies, mutual funds, index funds, exchange-traded funds, hedge funds, investor groups, banks and various other financial institutions).
The rise of the institutional investor has brought with it some improvements in market operations. There has been a gradual tendency for "fixed" (and exorbitant) fees being reduced for all investors, partly from falling administration costs but also assisted by large institutions challenging brokers' oligopolistic approach to setting standardised fees. A current trend in stock market investments includes the decrease in fees due to computerized asset management termed Robo Advisers within the industry. Automation has decreased portfolio management costs by lowering the cost associated with investing as a whole.
Trends in market participation
Stock market participation refers to the number of agents who buy and sell equity backed securities either directly or indirectly in a financial exchange. Participants are generally subdivided into three distinct sectors; households, institutions, and foreign traders. Direct participation occurs when any of the above entities buys or sells securities on its own behalf on an exchange. Indirect participation occurs when an institutional investor exchanges a stock on behalf of an individual or household. Indirect investment occurs in the form of pooled investment accounts, retirement accounts, and other managed financial accounts.
Indirect vs. direct investment
The total value of equity-backed securities in the United States rose over 600% in the 25 years between 1989 and 2012 as market capitalization expanded from $2,790 billion to $18,668 billion. Direct ownership of stock by individuals rose slightly from 17.8% in 1992 to 17.9% in 2007, with the median value of these holdings rising from $14,778 to $17,000. Indirect participation in the form of retirement accounts rose from 39.3% in 1992 to 52.6% in 2007, with the median value of these accounts more than doubling from $22,000 to $45,000 in that time. Rydqvist, Spizman, and Strebulaev attribute the differential growth in direct and indirect holdings to differences in the way each are taxed in the United States. Investments in pension funds and 401ks, the two most common vehicles of indirect participation, are taxed only when funds are withdrawn from the accounts. Conversely, the money used to directly purchase stock is subject to taxation as are any dividends or capital gains they generate for the holder. In this way the current tax code incentivizes individuals to invest indirectly.
Participation by income and wealth strata
Rates of participation and the value of holdings differs significantly across strata of income. In the bottom quintile of income, 5.5% of households directly own stock and 10.7% hold stocks indirectly in the form of retirement accounts. The top decile of income has a direct participation rate of 47.5% and an indirect participation rate in the form of retirement accounts of 89.6%. The median value of directly owned stock in the bottom quintile of income is $4,000 and is $78,600 in the top decile of income as of 2007. The median value of indirectly held stock in the form of retirement accounts for the same two groups in the same year is $6,300 and $214,800 respectively. Since the Great Recession of 2008 households in the bottom half of the income distribution have lessened their participation rate both directly and indirectly from 53.2% in 2007 to 48.8% in 2013, while over the same time period households in the top decile of the income distribution slightly increased participation 91.7% to 92.1%. The mean value of direct and indirect holdings at the bottom half of the income distribution moved slightly downward from $53,800 in 2007 to $53,600 in 2013. In the top decile, mean value of all holdings fell from $982,000 to $969,300 in the same time. The mean value of all stock holdings across the entire income distribution is valued at $269,900 as of 2013.
Participation by head of household race and gender
The racial composition of stock market ownership shows households headed by whites are nearly four and six times as likely to directly own stocks than households headed by blacks and Hispanics respectively. As of 2011 the national rate of direct participation was 19.6%, for white households the participation rate was 24.5%, for black households it was 6.4% and for Hispanic households it was 4.3% Indirect participation in the form of 401k ownership shows a similar pattern with a national participation rate of 42.1%, a rate of 46.4% for white households, 31.7% for black households, and 25.8% for Hispanic households. Households headed by married couples participated at rates above the national averages with 25.6% participating directly and 53.4% participating indirectly through a retirement account. 14.7% of households headed by men participated in the market directly and 33.4% owned stock through a retirement account. 12.6% of female headed households directly owned stock and 28.7% owned stock indirectly.
Determinants and possible explanations of stock market participation
In a 2002 paper Anntte Vissing-Jorgensen from the University of Chicago attempts to explain disproportionate rates of participation along wealth and income groups as a function of fixed costs associated with investing. Her research concludes that a fixed cost of $200 per year is sufficient to explain why nearly half of all U.S. households do not participate in the market. Participation rates have been shown to strongly correlate with education levels, promoting the hypothesis that information and transaction costs of market participation are better absorbed by more educated households. Behavioral economists Harrison Hong, Jeffrey Kubik and Jeremy Stein suggest that sociability and participation rates of communities have a statistically significant impact on an individual’s decision to participate in the market. Their research indicates that social individuals living in states with higher than average participation rates are 5% more likely to participate than individuals that do not share those characteristics. This phenomenon also explained in cost terms. Knowledge of market functioning diffuses through communities and consequently lowers transaction costs associated with investing.
In 12th-century France, the courretiers de change were concerned with managing and regulating the debts of agricultural communities on behalf of the banks. Because these men also traded with debts, they could be called the first brokers. A common misbelief is that, in late 13th-century Bruges, commodity traders gathered inside the house of a man called Van der Beurze, and in 1409 they became the "Brugse Beurse", institutionalizing what had been, until then, an informal meeting, but actually, the family Van der Beurze had a building in Antwerp where those gatherings occurred; the Van der Beurze had Antwerp, as most of the merchants of that period, as their primary place for trading. The idea quickly spread around Flanders and neighboring countries and "Beurzen" soon opened in Ghent and Rotterdam.
In the middle of the 13th century, Venetian bankers began to trade in government securities. In 1351 the Venetian government outlawed spreading rumors intended to lower the price of government funds. Bankers in Pisa, Verona, Genoa and Florence also began trading in government securities during the 14th century. This was only possible because these were independent city-states not ruled by a duke but a council of influential citizens. Italian companies were also the first to issue shares. Companies in England and the Low Countries followed in the 16th century.
Birth of formal stock markets
See also: Economic history of the Dutch Republic, Financial history of the Dutch Republic, and Dutch East India Company
In the 17th and 18th centuries, the Dutch pioneering several financial innovations that helped lay the foundations of modern financial system. While the Italian city-states produced the first transferable government bonds, they did not develop the other ingredient necessary to produce a fully fledged capital market: the stock market. In the early 1600s the Dutch East India Company (VOC) became the first company in history to issue bonds and shares of stock to the general public. As Edward Stringham (2015) notes, "companies with transferable shares date back to classical Rome, but these were usually not enduring endeavors and no considerable secondary market existed (Neal, 1997, p. 61)." The Dutch East India Company (founded in the year of 1602) was also the first joint-stock company to get a fixed capital stock and as a result, continuous trade in company stock occurred on the Amsterdam Exchange. Soon thereafter, a lively trade in various derivatives, among which options and repos, emerged on the Amsterdam market. Dutch traders also pioneered short selling – a practice which was banned by the Dutch authorities as early as 1610. Amsterdam-based businessman Joseph de la Vega's Confusion de Confusiones (1688) was the earliest known book about stock trading and first book on the inner workings of the stock market (including the stock exchange).
There are now stock markets in virtually every developed and most developing economies, with the world's largest markets being in the United States, United Kingdom, Japan, India, China, Canada, Germany (Frankfurt Stock Exchange), France, South Korea and the Netherlands.
As the Austrian School economist Ludwig von Mises noted, "A stock market is crucial to the existence of capitalism and private property. For it means that there is a functioning market in the exchange of private titles to the means of production. There can be no genuine private ownership of capital without a stock market: there can be no true socialism if such a market is allowed to exist."
Function and purpose
The stock market is one of the most important ways for companies to raise money, along with debt markets which are generally more imposing but do not trade publicly. This allows businesses to be publicly traded, and raise additional financial capital for expansion by selling shares of ownership of the company in a public market. The liquidity that an exchange affords the investors enables their holders to quickly and easily sell securities. This is an attractive feature of investing in stocks, compared to other less liquid investments such as property and other immoveable assets. Some companies actively increase liquidity by trading in their own shares.
History has shown that the price of stocks and other assets is an important part of the dynamics of economic activity, and can influence or be an indicator of social mood. An economy where the stock market is on the rise is considered to be an up-and-coming economy. The stock market is often considered the primary indicator of a country's economic strength and development.
Rising share prices, for instance, tend to be associated with increased business investment and vice versa. Share prices also affect the wealth of households and their consumption. Therefore, central banks tend to keep an eye on the control and behavior of the stock market and, in general, on the smooth operation of financial system functions. Financial stability is the raison d'être of central banks.
Exchanges also act as the clearinghouse for each transaction, meaning that they collect and deliver the shares, and guarantee payment to the seller of a security. This eliminates the risk to an individual buyer or seller that the counterparty could default on the transaction.
The smooth functioning of all these activities facilitates economic growth in that lower costs and enterprise risks promote the production of goods and services as well as possibly employment. In this way the financial system is assumed to contribute to increased prosperity, although some controversy exists as to whether the optimal financial system is bank-based or market-based.
Recent events such as the Global Financial Crisis have prompted a heightened degree of scrutiny of the impact of the structure of stock markets (called market microstructure), in particular to the stability of the financial system and the transmission of systemic risk.
Relation to the modern financial system
The financial system in most western countries has undergone a remarkable transformation. One feature of this development is disintermediation. A portion of the funds involved in saving and financing, flows directly to the financial markets instead of being routed via the traditional bank lending and deposit operations. The general public interest in investing in the stock market, either directly or through mutual funds, has been an important component of this process.
Statistics show that in recent decades, shares have made up an increasingly large proportion of households' financial assets in many countries. In the 1970s, in Sweden, deposit accounts and other very liquid assets with little risk made up almost 60 percent of households' financial wealth, compared to less than 20 percent in the 2000s. The major part of this adjustment is that financial portfolios have gone directly to shares but a good deal now takes the form of various kinds of institutional investment for groups of individuals, e.g., pension funds, mutual funds, hedge funds, insurance investment of premiums, etc.
The trend towards forms of saving with a higher risk has been accentuated by new rules for most funds and insurance, permitting a higher proportion of shares to bonds. Similar tendencies are to be found in other developed countries. In all developed economic systems, such as the European Union, the United States, Japan and other developed nations, the trend has been the same: saving has moved away from traditional (government insured) "bank deposits to more risky securities of one sort or another".
A second transformation is the move to electronic trading to replace human trading of listed securities.
United States S&P stock market returns
(assumes 2% annual dividend)
Compared to Other Asset Classes Over the long term, investing in a well diversified portfolio of stocks such as an S&P 500 Index outperforms other investment vehicles such as Treasury Bills and Bonds, with the S&P 500 having a geometric annual average of 9.55% from 1928 to 2013.
Behavior of the stock market
Investors may temporarily move financial prices away from market equilibrium. Over-reactions may occur—so that excessive optimism (euphoria) may drive prices unduly high or excessive pessimism may drive prices unduly low. Economists continue to debate whether financial markets are generally efficient.
According to one interpretation of the efficient-market hypothesis (EMH), only changes in fundamental factors, such as the outlook for margins, profits or dividends, ought to affect share prices beyond the short term, where random 'noise' in the system may prevail. The 'hard' efficient-market hypothesis does not explain the cause of events such as the crash in 1987, when the Dow Jones Industrial Average plummeted 22.6 percent—the largest-ever one-day fall in the United States.
This event demonstrated that share prices can fall dramatically even though no generally agreed upon definite cause has been found: a thorough search failed to detect any 'reasonable' development that might have accounted for the crash. (Note that such events are predicted to occur strictly by chance, although very rarely.) It seems also to be the case more generally that many price movements (beyond that which are predicted to occur 'randomly') are not occasioned by new information; a study of the fifty largest one-day share price movements in the United States in the post-war period seems to confirm this.
A 'soft' EMH has emerged which does not require that prices remain at or near equilibrium, but only that market participants not be able to systematically profit from any momentary market 'inefficiencies'. Moreover, while EMH predicts that all price movement (in the absence of change in fundamental information) is random (i.e., non-trending), many studies have shown a marked tendency for the stock market to trend over time periods of weeks or longer. Various explanations for such large and apparently non-random price movements have been promulgated. For instance, some research has shown that changes in estimated risk, and the use of certain strategies, such as stop-loss limits and value at risk limits, theoretically could cause financial markets to overreact. But the best explanation seems to be that the distribution of stock market prices is non-Gaussian (in which case EMH, in any of its current forms, would not be strictly applicable).
Other research has shown that psychological factors may result in exaggerated (statistically anomalous) stock price movements (contrary to EMH which assumes such behaviors 'cancel out'). Psychological research has demonstrated that people are predisposed to 'seeing' patterns, and often will perceive a pattern in what is, in fact, just noise, e.g. seeing familiar shapes in clouds or ink blots. In the present context this means that a succession of good news items about a company may lead investors to overreact positively, driving the price up. A period of good returns also boosts the investors' self-confidence, reducing their (psychological) risk threshold.
Another phenomenon—also from psychology—that works against an objective assessment is group thinking. As social animals, it is not easy to stick to an opinion that differs markedly from that of a majority of the group. An example with which one may be familiar is the reluctance to enter a restaurant that is empty; people generally prefer to have their opinion validated by those of others in the group.
In one paper the authors draw an analogy with gambling. In normal times the market behaves like a game of roulette; the probabilities are known and largely independent of the investment decisions of the different players. In times of market stress, however, the game becomes more like poker (herding behavior takes over). The players now must give heavy weight to the psychology of other investors and how they are likely to react psychologically.
In the period running up to the 1987 crash, less than 1 percent of the analyst's recommendations had been to sell (and even during the 2000–2002 bear market, the average did not rise above 5%). In the run-up to 2000, the media amplified the general euphoria, with reports of rapidly rising share prices and the notion that large sums of money could be quickly earned in the so-called new economy stock market.
Stock markets play an essential role in growing industries that ultimately affect the economy through transferring available funds from units that have excess funds (savings) to those who are suffering from funds deficit (borrowings) (Padhi and Naik, 2012). In other words, capital markets facilitate funds movement between the above-mentioned units. This process leads to the enhancement of available financial resources which in turn affects the economic growth positively. Moreover, both economic and financial theories argue that stock prices are affected by macroeconomic trends.
Many different academic researchers have stated companies with low P/E ratios and smaller sized companies have a tendency to outperform the market. Research carried out states mid-sized companies outperform large cap companies and smaller companies have higher returns historically.
Sometimes, the market seems to react irrationally to economic or financial news, even if that news is likely to have no real effect on the fundamental value of securities itself.  However, this market behaviour may be more apparent than real, since often such news was anticipated, and a counterreaction may occur if the news is better (or worse) than expected. Therefore, the stock market may be swayed in either direction by press releases, rumors, euphoria and mass panic.
Over the short-term, stocks and other securities can be battered or buoyed by any number of fast market-changing events, making the stock market behavior difficult to predict. Emotions can drive prices up and down, people are generally not as rational as they think, and the reasons for buying and selling are generally accepted.
Behaviorists argue that investors often behave irrationally when making investment decisions thereby incorrectly pricing securities, which causes market inefficiencies, which, in turn, are opportunities to make money. However, the whole notion of EMH is that these non-rational reactions to information cancel out, leaving the prices of stocks rationally determined.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average biggest gain in one day was 936.42 points or 11%.
Main article: Stock market crash
Further information: List of stock market crashes
A stock market crash is often defined as a sharp dip in share prices of stocks listed on the stock exchanges. In parallel with various economic factors, a reason for stock market crashes is also due to panic and investing public's loss of confidence. Often, stock market crashes end speculative economic bubbles.
There have been famous stock market crashes that have ended in the loss of billions of dollars and wealth destruction on a massive scale. An increasing number of people are involved in the stock market, especially since the social security and retirement plans are being increasingly privatized and linked to stocks and bonds and other elements of the market. There have been a number of famous stock market crashes like the Wall Street Crash of 1929, the stock market crash of 1973–4, the Black Monday of 1987, the Dot-com bubble of 2000, and the Stock Market Crash of 2008.
One of the most famous stock market crashes started October 24, 1929, on Black Thursday. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 50% during this stock market crash. It was the beginning of the Great Depression. Another famous crash took place on October 19, 1987 – Black Monday. The crash began in Hong Kong and quickly spread around the world.
By the end of October, stock markets in Hong Kong had fallen 45.5%, Australia 41.8%, Spain 31%, the United Kingdom 26.4%, the United States 22.68%, and Canada 22.5%. Black Monday itself was the largest one-day percentage decline in stock market history – the Dow Jones fell by 22.6% in a day. The names "Black Monday" and "Black Tuesday" are also used for October 28–29, 1929, which followed Terrible Thursday—the starting day of the stock market crash in 1929.
The crash in 1987 raised some puzzles – main news and events did not predict the catastrophe and visible reasons for the collapse were not identified. This event raised questions about many important assumptions of modern economics, namely, the theory of rational human conduct, the theory of market equilibrium and the efficient-market hypothesis. For some time after the crash, trading in stock exchanges worldwide was halted, since the exchange computers did not perform well owing to enormous quantity of trades being received at one time. This halt in trading allowed the Federal Reserve System and central banks of other countries to take measures to control the spreading of worldwide financial crisis. In the United States the SEC introduced several new measures of control into the stock market in an attempt to prevent a re-occurrence of the events of Black Monday.
Since the early 1990s, many of the largest exchanges have adopted electronic 'matching engines' to bring together buyers and sellers, replacing the open outcry system. Electronic trading now accounts for the majority of trading in many developed countries. Computer systems were upgraded in the stock exchanges to handle larger trading volumes in a more accurate and controlled manner. The SEC modified the margin requirements in an attempt to lower the volatility of common stocks, stock options and the futures market. The New York Stock Exchange and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange introduced the concept of a circuit breaker. The circuit breaker halts trading if the Dow declines a prescribed number of points for a prescribed amount of time. In February 2012, the Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada (IIROC) introduced single-stock circuit breakers.
- New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) circuit breakers
|% drop||time of drop||close trading for|
|10||before 2 pm||one hour halt|
|10||2 pm – 2:30 pm||half-hour halt|
|10||after 2:30 pm||market stays open|
|20||before 1 pm||halt for two hours|
|20||1 pm – 2 pm||halt for one hour|
|20||after 2 pm||close for the day|
|30||any time during day||close for the day|
Stock market prediction
Main article: Stock market prediction
Tobias Preis and his colleagues Helen Susannah Moat and H. Eugene Stanley introduced a method to identify online precursors for stock market moves, using trading strategies based on search volume data provided by Google Trends. Their analysis of Google search volume for 98 terms of varying financial relevance suggests that increases in search volume for financially relevant search terms tend to precede large losses in financial markets.
Stock market index
Main article: Stock market index
The movements of the prices in a market or section of a market are captured in price indices called stock market indices, of which there are many, e.g., the S&P, the FTSE and the Euronext indices. Such indices are usually market capitalization weighted, with the weights reflecting the contribution of the stock to the index. The constituents of the index are reviewed frequently to include/exclude stocks in order to reflect the changing business environment.
Main article: Derivative (finance)
Financial innovation has brought many new financial instruments whose pay-offs or values depend on the prices of stocks. Some examples are exchange-traded funds (ETFs), stock index and stock options, equity swaps, single-stock futures, and stock index futures. These last two may be traded on futures exchanges (which are distinct from stock exchanges—their history traces back to commodity futures exchanges), or traded over-the-counter. As all of these products are only derived from stocks, they are sometimes considered to be traded in a (hypothetical) derivatives market, rather than the (hypothetical) stock market.
Stock that a trader does not actually own may be traded using short selling; margin buying may be used to purchase stock with borrowed funds; or, derivatives may be used to control large blocks of stocks for a much smaller amount of money than would be required by outright purchase or sales.
Main article: Short selling
In short selling, the trader borrows stock (usually from his brokerage which holds its clients' shares or its own shares on account to lend to short sellers) then sells it on the market, betting that the price will fall. The trader eventually buys back the stock, making money if the price fell in the meantime and losing money if it rose. Exiting a short position by buying back the stock is called "covering." This strategy may also be used by unscrupulous traders in illiquid or thinly traded markets to artificially lower the price of a stock. Hence most markets either prevent short selling or place restrictions on when and how a short sale can occur. The practice of naked shorting is illegal in most (but not all) stock markets.
Main article: margin buying
In margin buying, the trader borrows money (at interest) to buy a stock and hopes for it to rise. Most industrialized countries have regulations that require that if the borrowing is based on collateral from other stocks the trader owns outright, it can be a maximum of a certain percentage of those other stocks' value. In the United States, the margin requirements have been 50% for many years (that is, if you want to make a $1000 investment, you need to put up $500, and there is often a maintenance margin below the $500).
A margin call is made if the total value of the investor's account cannot support the loss of the trade. (Upon a decline in the value of the margined securities additional funds may be required to maintain the account's equity, and with or without notice the margined security or any others within the account may be sold by the brokerage to protect its loan position. The investor is responsible for any shortfall following such forced sales.)
Regulation of margin requirements (by the Federal Reserve) was implemented after the Crash of 1929. Before that, speculators typically only needed to put up as little as 10 percent (or even less) of the total investment represented by the stocks purchased. Other rules may include the prohibition of free-riding: putting in an order to buy stocks without paying initially (there is normally a three-day grace period for delivery of the stock), but then selling them (before the three-days are up) and using part of the proceeds to make the original payment (assuming that the value of the stocks has not declined in the interim).
Main article: Thomson Reuters league tables
Global issuance of equity and equity-related instruments totaled $505 billion in 2004, a 29.8% increase over the $389 billion raised in 2003. Initial public offerings (IPOs) by US issuers increased 221% with 233 offerings that raised $45 billion, and IPOs in Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) increased by 333%, from $9 billion to $39 billion.
What is the 'Stock Market'
The stock market refers to the collection of markets and exchanges where the issuing and trading of equities (stocks of publicly held companies), bonds and other sorts of securities takes place, either through formal exchanges or over-the-counter markets. Also known as the equity market, the stock market is one of the most vital components of a free-market economy, as it provides companies with access to capital in exchange for giving investors a slice of ownership.
How Does the Stock Market Work?
The stock market can be split into two main sections: the primary market and the secondary market. The primary market is where new issues are first sold through initial public offerings (IPOs). Institutional investors typically purchase most of these shares from investment banks; the worth of the company "going public" and the amount of shares being issued determine the opening stock price of the IPO. All subsequent trading goes on in the secondary market, where participants include both institutional and individual investors. (A company uses money raised from its IPO to grow, but once its stock starts trading, it does not receive funds from the buying and selling of its shares).
Stocks of larger companies are usually traded through exchanges, entities that bring together buyers and sellers in an organized manner where stocks are listed and traded (although today, most stock market trades are executed electronically, and even the stocks themselves are almost always held in electronic form, not as physical certificates). Such exchanges exist in major cities all over the world, including London and Tokyo.
In terms of market capitalization, the two biggest stock exchanges in the United States are the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), founded in 1792 and located on Wall Street (which colloquially is often used as synonym for the NYSE), and the Nasdaq, founded in 1971. The Nasdaq originally featured over-the-counter (OTC) securities, but today it lists all types of stocks. Stocks can be listed on either exchange if they meet the listing criteria, but in general technology firms tend to be listed on the Nasdaq.
The NYSE is still the largest and, arguably, most powerful stock exchange in the world. The Nasdaq has more companies listed, but the NYSE has a market capitalization that is larger than Tokyo, London and the Nasdaq combined.
Who Regulates the Stock Market?
The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is the regulatory body charged with overseeing the U.S. stock markets. A federal agency that is independent of the political party in power, the SEC states its "mission is to protect investors, maintain fair, orderly, and efficient markets, and facilitate capital formation." (Learn more about it in Policing The Securities Market: An Overview Of The SEC.)
Two general types of securities are most frequently traded on stock markets: over-the-counter (OTC) and listed securities. Listed securities are those stocks traded on exchanges. These securities need to meet the reporting regulations of the SEC as well as the requirements of the exchanges on which they are listed.
Over-the-counter securities are traded directly between parties, usually via a dealer network, and are not listed on any exchange, although these securities may be listed on pink sheets. Pink sheet securities often do not meet the requirements for being listed on an exchange and tend to have low float, such as closely held companies or thinly-traded stocks. Companies in bankruptcy are typically listed here, as are penny stocks, loosely defined as those that trade below $5 a share.
OTC securities do not need to comply with SEC reporting requirements, so finding credible information on them can be difficult. The lack of information makes investing in pink sheet securities similar to investing in private companies.
The number of stocks that exchanges handle daily is called volume. Market makers are required to buy and sell stocks that don’t interest other investors. Read reviews of stock brokers.
Who Works on the Stock Market?
There are many different players associated with the stock market, including stockbrokers, traders, stock analysts, portfolio managers and investment bankers. Each has a unique role, but many of the roles are intertwined and depend on each other to make the market run effectively.
Stockbrokers, also known as registered representatives in the U.S., are the licensed professionals who buy and sell securities on behalf of investors. The brokers act as intermediaries between the stock exchanges and the investors by buying and selling stocks on the investors' behalf. (Learn more in Evaluating Your Stock Broker.)
Stock analysts perform research and rate the securities as buy, sell or hold. This research gets disseminated to clients and interested parties to decide whether to buy or sell the stock. Portfolio managers are professionals who invest portfolios, collections of securities, for clients. These managers get recommendations from analysts and make buy/sell decisions for the portfolio. Mutual fund companies, hedge funds and pension plans use portfolio managers to make decisions and set the investment strategies for the money they hold.
Investment bankers represent companies in various capacities such as private companies that want to go public via an IPO or companies that are involved with pending mergers and acquisitions.
The Performance Indicators
If you want to know how the stock market is performing, you can consult an index of stocks for the whole market or for a segment of the market. Indexes are used to measure changes in the overall stock market. There are many different indexes, each made up of a different pool of stocks (though there may be overlap among them). In the U.S., examples of indexes include the Dow Jones Industrial Average, NASDAQ Composite Index, Russell 2000, and Standard and Poor’s 500 (S&P 500).
The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) is perhaps the best-known. The Dow is comprised of the 30 largest companies in the U.S., and the daily Dow shows how their stocks perform on a given day. The Dow average is a price–weighted average, meaning its number is based on the price of the stocks. The S&P 500 is comprised of the 500 largest capitalization stocks traded in the U.S.
These two indexes are the most followed measurements of the U.S. stock market, and as such, the most generally accepted representatives of the American overall economy. However, there are many other indexes that represent mid- and small-sized U.S. companies, such as the Russell 2000. (For more on indexes and their function, check out The History Of Stock Market Indexes.)
Why is the Stock Market Important?
The stock market allows companies to raise money by offering stock shares and corporate bonds. It lets investors participate in the financial achievements of the companies, making money through the dividends (essentially, cuts of the company's profits) the shares pay out and by selling appreciated stocks at a profit, or capital gain. (Of course, the downside is that investors can lose money if the share price falls or depreciates, and the investor has to sell the stocks at a loss.)
In the U.S., the indexes that measure the value of stocks are widely followed and are a critical data source used to gage the current state of the American economy. As a financial barometer, the stock market has become an integral and influential part of decision-making for everyone from the average family to the wealthiest executive.
Is the Stock Market Rigged?
Which is not to say that everyone is equal when it comes to trading. Technically speaking, the stock market is not rigged. One of the whole points of an open exchange is to provide transparency and opportunity for all; furthermore, laws and governing bodies such as the SEC exist to "level the playing field" for investors. However, there are undeniable advantages that institutional investors and professional money managers have over individual investors: timely access to privileged information, full-time researchers, huge amounts of capital to invest (which results in discounts on commissions, transactional fees and even share prices), political influence and greater experience. While the Internet has been somewhat of an equalizing factor, the reality is that many institutional clients get news and analysis before the public does, and can act on information more quickly.
History of the Stock Market
It can be difficult for investors to imagine a time when the stock market in general, and the NYSE in particular, wasn't synonymous with investing. But, of course, it wasn't always this way; there were many steps along the road to our current system of exchange. In fact, the first stock exchange thrived for decades without a single stock actually being traded.
The First Stock Exchange – Sans the Stock
Belgium boasted a stock exchange as far back as 1531, in Antwerp. Brokers and moneylenders would meet there to deal in business, government and even individual debt issues. It is odd to think of a stock exchange that dealt exclusively in promissory notes and bonds, but in the 1500's there were no real stocks. There were financier partnerships that produced income like stocks do, but there was no official share that changed hands.
All Those East India Companies
In the 1600's, the Dutch, British, and French governments all gave charters to companies with East India in their names. On the cusp of imperialism's high point, it seems like everyone had a stake in the profits from the East Indies and Asia except the people living there. Sea voyages that brought back goods from the East were extremely risky – on top of Barbary pirates, there were the more common risks of bad weather and poor navigation.
In order to lessen the risk of a lost ship ruining their fortunes, ship owners had long been in the practice of seeking investors who would put up money for the voyage – outfitting the ship and crew in return for a percentage of the proceeds if the voyage was successful. These early limited liability companies often lasted for only a single voyage.
When the East India companies formed, they changed the way business was done. These companies had stocks that would pay dividends on all the proceeds from all the voyages the companies undertook, rather than going voyage by voyage. These were the first modern joint stock companies. This allowed the companies to demand more for their shares and build larger fleets. The size of the companies, combined with royal charters forbidding competition, meant huge profits for investors.
A Little Stock With Your Coffee?
Because the shares in the various East India companies were issued on paper, investors could sell their holdings to other investors. Unfortunately, there was no stock exchange in existence, so the investor would have to track down a broker to carry out a trade. In England, most brokers and investors did their business in the various coffee shops around London. Debt issues and shares for sale were written up and posted on the shops' doors or mailed as a newsletter.
The South Seas Bubble Bursts
The British East India Company had one of the biggest competitive advantages in financial history – a government–backed monopoly. When the investors began to receive huge dividends and sell their shares for fortunes, other investors were hungry for a piece of the action. The budding financial boom in England came so quickly that were no rules or regulations for the issuing of shares. The South Seas Company (SSC) emerged with a similar charter from the king and its shares, and the numerous re-issues, sold as soon as they were listed. Before the first ship ever left the harbor, the SSC had used its newfound investor fortune to open posh offices in the best parts of London.
Encouraged by the success of the SSC – and realizing that the company hadn't done a thing except issue shares – other "businessmen" rushed in to offer new shares in their own ventures. Some of these were as ludicrous as reclaiming the sunshine from vegetables or, better yet, a company promising investors shares in an undertaking of such vast importance that they couldn't be revealed – something known today as a blind pool.
Inevitably, the bubble burst when the SSC failed to pay any dividends off its meager profits, highlighting the difference between these new share issues and the British East India Company. The subsequent crash caused the government to outlaw the issuing of shares – a ban held until 1825.
The New York Stock Exchange
The first stock exchange in London was officially formed in 1773, a scant 19 years before the New York Stock Exchange. Whereas the London Stock Exchange (LSE) was handcuffed by the law restricting shares, the New York Stock Exchange has dealt in the trading of stocks since its inception. The NYSE wasn't the first stock exchange in the U.S.: That honor goes to the Philadelphia Stock Exchange (1790). But it quickly became the most powerful.
Formed by brokers under the spreading boughs of a buttonwood tree, the New York Stock Exchange made its home on Wall Street. The exchange's location, more than anything else, led to the dominance that the NYSE quickly attained. It was in the heart of all the business and trade coming to and going from the United States, as well as the domestic base for most banks and large corporations. By setting listing requirements and demanding fees, the New York Stock Exchange became a very wealthy institution.
The NYSE faced very little serious domestic competition for the next two centuries. Its international prestige rose in tandem with the burgeoning American economy in the 20th century, and it was soon the most important stock exchange in the world. London emerged as the major exchange for Europe, but many companies that were able to list internationally still listed in New York. Other countries, including Germany, France, the Netherlands, Switzerland, South Africa, Hong Kong, Japan, Australia and Canada, developed their own stock exchanges, but these were largely seen as proving grounds for domestic companies to inhabit until they were ready to make the leap to the LSE and from there to the big leagues of the NYSE.
The NYSE had its share of ups and downs during the same period, too. Everything from the Great Depression to the Wall Street bombing of 1920 left scars on the exchange (in the last case, literally: marks remain on the buildings from the blast, which left 38 people dead). After the Stock Market Crash of 1929, less literal scars came in the form of stricter listing and reporting requirements, and increased government regulation.
Still, the NYSE suffered relatively little disruption during the world wars and didn't have the prolonged declines that many of the European and Asian markets experienced in the late 1940s. Reflecting the economic dominance of the U.S. throughout the world, it was arguably the most powerful stock exchange domestically and internationally, despite the existence of stock exchanges in Chicago, Los Angeles and Philadelphia.
In 1971, however, an upstart emerged to challenge the NYSE hegemony.
The New Kid on the Block
The Nasdaq was the brainchild of the National Association of Securities Dealers (NASD), now called the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). From its inception, it has been a different type of stock exchange. It does not inhabit a physical space, as does the NYSE at 11 Wall Street. Instead, it is a network of computers that execute trades electronically.
The introduction of an electronic exchange made trades more efficient and reduced the bid-ask spread – a spread the NYSE wasn't above profiting from. The competition from Nasdaq has forced the NYSE to evolve, both by listing itself and by merging with Euronext (created in 2000 from the merger of the Amsterdam, Brussels and Paris stock exchanges) in 2007 to form the first trans-Atlantic exchange. With this merger, the influence of movements on the NYSE truly became global in scope. (To learn more, check out The Tale Of Two Exchanges: NYSE And Nasdaq and The Global Electronic Stock Market.)
A Newer Kid on the Block
For years, the Nasdaq was the second-largest equity U.S. exchange, after the NYSE. In the 21st century, however, it was superseded – in terms of market share, at least – by another electronic exchange, currently known as BATS Global Markets. (Nasdaq is still number two in terms of market capitalization.) Founded in 2005, BATS (which stands for "Better Alternative Trading System") now runs four domestic stock exchanges, representing 20.5% of the U.S. equities markets, and has also branched out into forex, options, European equities and ETFs; in fact, it's the largest ETF exchange in the country.
The Bottom Line
Once upon a time, "stock market" was synonymous with "stock exchange" – a place where people literally gathered to buy and sell securities. In this era of computerized trading and electronic communication networks (ECNs) like those run by Nasdaq and BATS, that's no longer true. And the human element has been reduced even further by the advent of high-speed or high frequency trading, automated trading platforms which use computer algorithms to transact a large number of orders at extremely high speeds – millions of orders in a matter of seconds, in fact. High-frequency trading became popular when exchanges started to offer incentives for companies to become market makers in stocks, thus providing liquidity to the market. For example, after the subprime mortgage crisis of 2008 and the failure of broker-dealers like Lehman Brothers, the NYSE launched a program that pays firms a per-transaction fee or rebate for actively trading securities.
While physical exchanges of paper are now rare, and actual trading floors may continue to dwindle, the concept of a stock market remains intact. Be it literal or figurative, societies, companies and individuals all like the idea of an open, public forum for raising, investing and making money.