Understanding Global Equity

What is ‘Equity Market?’

The market in which shares are issued and traded, either through exchanges or over-the-counter markets. Also known as the stock market, it is one of the most vital areas of a market economy because it gives companies access to capital and investors a slice of ownership in a company with the potential to realize gains based on its future performance.

Breaking Down ‘Equity Market’

Equity markets are the meeting point for buyers and sellers of stocks. The securities traded in the equity market can be either public stocks, which are those listed on the stock exchange, or privately traded. Often, private stocks are traded through dealers, which is the definition of an over-the-counter market.

Stock Exchanges

The place where stocks in the equity market are traded is the stock exchange. There are many stock exchanges around the world, and they can be either physical places or virtual gathering spots. NASDAQ is an example of a virtual trading post, in which stocks are traded electronically through a network of computers. Electronic stock exchanges often include a market maker, which is a broker-dealer company that both buys and sells stocks to facilitate trading for a particular stock. This comes at a risk to the company, but it makes the exchange process for a given stock operate more smoothly. Electronic trading posts are becoming more common and a preferred method of trading over physical exchanges.

The New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) on Wall Street is a famous example of a physical stock exchange; however, there is also the option to trade in online exchanges from that location, so it is technically a hybrid market. In a physical exchange, orders are made in open outcry format, which is reminiscent of depictions of Wall Street in the movies: traders shout and display hand signals across the floor to place trades. Physical exchanges are made on the trading floor filter through a floor broker, who finds the trading post specialist for that stock to put through the order. Physical exchanges are still very much human environments, although there are a lot of functions performed by computers. Brokers are paid commissions on the stocks they work.

Most large companies have stocks that are listed at multiple stock exchanges throughout the world. However, companies with stocks in the equity market range from large-scale to small, and traders range from big companies to individual investors. Most buyers and sellers tend to prefer trading at larger exchanges, where there are more options and opportunities than at smaller exchanges. However, in recent years, there has been an uptick in the number of exchanges through third-party markets, which bypass the commission of a stock exchange, but pose a greater risk of adverse selection and don’t guarantee the payment or delivery of the stock.

The oldest existing stock exchange is the Amsterdam Stock Exchange (AEX), which was founded in the 1600s to trade stocks of the Dutch East India Trading Company, one of the first companies (then called joint-stock companies) to offer shareholder stock. Before the AEX, many countries and towns had systems of trade regulation that operated much like stock exchanges, but the AEX was the first official stock exchange as we know it. Today, equity markets exist in most developed and developing countries.

Trading in the Equity Market

In the equity market, investors bid for stocks by offering a certain price, and sellers ask for a specific price. When these two prices match, a sale occurs. Often, many investors are bidding on the same stock. When this occurs, the first investor to place the bid is the first to get the stock. When a buyer will pay any price for the stock, he or she is buying at market value; similarly, when a seller will take any price for the stock, he or she is selling at market value.

Companies sell stocks to get capital to grow their businesses. When a company offers stocks on the market, it means the company is publicly traded, and each stock represents a piece of ownership. This appeals to investors, and when a company does well, its investors are rewarded as the value of their stocks rise. The risk comes when a company is not doing well, and its stock value may fall. Stocks can be bought and sold easily and quickly, and the activity surrounding a certain stock impacts its value. For example, when there is a high demand to invest in the company, the price of the stock tends to rise, and when many investors want to sell their stocks, the value goes down.

This market can be split into two main sectors: the primary and secondary market. The primary market is where new issues are first offered, and stocks and bonds are issued directly from the company. Any subsequent trading takes place in the secondary market, in which proceeds from the stock go to the investors, not the company directly. Stock exchanges, such as NYSE or NASDAQ, are examples of secondary markets.

What Stock Prices Mean for the Economy

In general, rising stock prices for companies from a particular country indicate a healthy, growing market; on the other hand, a downward trend in stocks may reflect weakening fundamentals in a country’s economy. This is because rising prices tend to indicate that many buyers are investing their money in the future health and growth of the economy as a whole.

In the United States, two periods of economic decline were linked to a crash in equity markets: the Great Depression of 1929 and the Great Recession of the late 2000s. The Great Depression resulted from widespread panic and distrust in the market; people preferred to hide money under their mattresses than hold it in the banks, which caused chaos in the trading world. The Great Recession, which affected the global market, not just the United States, resulted from a crash in the housing market and an over-reliance on credit.

Stock Market

The stock market is the market in which shares of publicly held companies are issued and traded either through 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 in the company. The stock market makes it possible to grow small initial sums of money into large ones, and to become wealthy without taking the risk of starting a business or making the sacrifices that often accompany a high-paying career.

Breaking Down ‘Stock Market’

The stock market lets investors participate in the financial achievements of the companies whose shares they hold. When companies are profitable, stock market investors make money through the dividends the companies pay out and by selling appreciated stocks at a profit called a capital gain. The downside is that investors can lose money if the companies whose stocks they hold lose money, the stocks’ prices go down and the investor sells the stocks at a loss.

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. Institutional investors typically purchase most of these shares from investment banks. All subsequent trading goes on in the secondary market where participants include both institutional and individual investors.

Stocks are traded through exchanges. The two biggest stock exchanges in the United States are the New York Stock Exchange, founded in 1792, and the Nasdaq, founded in 1971. Today, most stock market trades are executed electronically, and even the stocks themselves are almost always held in electronic form, not as physical certificates.

If you want to know how the stock market is performing, you can consult an index of stocks for the whole market or a segment of the market. Examples include the Dow Jones Industrial Average, Nasdaq index, Russell 2000, Standard and Poor’s 500, and Morgan Stanley Europe, Australasia and Far East index.

Exchange

An exchange is a marketplace in which securities, commodities, derivatives and other financial instruments are traded. The core function of an exchange is to ensure fair and orderly trading, as well as efficient dissemination of price information for any securities trading on that exchange. Exchanges give companies, governments and other groups a platform to sell securities to the investing public.

Breaking Down ‘Exchange’

An exchange may be a physical location where traders meet to conduct business or an electronic platform. They may also be referred to as a share exchange or bourse, depending on geographical location. Exchanges are located in most countries throughout the world, with several of the more prominent being the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), the Nasdaq, the London Stock Exchange (LSE) and the Tokyo Stock Exchange (TSE).

Electronic Exchanges

Trading is increasingly being conducted on electronic exchanges as markets become more sophisticated; exchanges themselves can ensure fair trading without requiring all members to be on a centralized trading floor. As of 2016, the floor of the NYSE processes less than 15% of the overall volume of stocks traded in the United States. Transactions are now spread across multiple exchanges. This has resulted in a substantial increase of high-frequency trading programs and complex algorithms being used on exchanges.

Exchange Listing Requirements

Each exchange has certain listing requirements for any company or group that wishes to offer securities for trading. Some exchanges are more rigid than others, but basic requirements for stock exchanges include regular financial reports, audited earning reports and minimum capital requirements. For example, the NYSE has a key listing requirement that stipulates a company has a minimum of $4 million in shareholder’s equity.

Benefits of the Stock Exchange

A stock exchange is used to raise capital for companies seeking to grow and expand their operations. The first sale of stock by a private company to the public is referred to as an initial public offering (IPO). Global stock exchange operator Bats Global Markets Inc. listed on the NYSE in 2016, helping the company scale its business. Companies listed on the stock exchange typically have an enhanced profile. Having more visibility may attract new customers, talented employees and suppliers who are eager to conduct business with a prominent industry leader.

Exchanges Give More Control

Private companies often rely on venture capitalists for investment, and this usually results in a loss of operational control. For example, a seed funding firm may require it holds a prominent position on the board. Alternatively, companies listed on a stock exchange have more control and autonomy as investors who purchase shares have limited rights.

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