A stock market, equity market, or share market is the aggregation of buyers and sellers of stocks (also called shares), which represent ownership claims on businesses; these may include securities listed on a public stock exchange, as well as stock that is only traded privately, such as shares of private companies which are sold to investors through equity crowdfunding platforms. Investment in the stock market is most often done via stockbrokerages and electronic trading platforms. Investment is usually made with an investment strategy in mind.
Stocks can be categorized by the country where the company is domiciled. For example, Nestlé and Novartis are domiciled in Switzerland and traded on the SIX Swiss Exchange, so they may be considered as part of the Swiss stock market, although the stocks may also be traded on exchanges in other countries, for example, as American depositary receipts (ADRs) on U.S. stock markets.
Size of the markets
The total market capitalization of equity backed securities worldwide rose from US$2.5 trillion in 1980 to US$68.65 trillion at the end of 2018. As of December 31, 2019, the total market capitalization of all stocks worldwide was approximately US$70.75 trillion.
As of 2016, there are 60 stock exchanges in the world. 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 all in either North America, Europe, or Asia.
By country, the largest stock markets as of January 2020 are in the United States of America (about 54.5%), followed by Japan (about 7.7%) and the United Kingdom (about 5.1%)
A stock exchange is an exchange (or bourse) where stockbrokers and traders can buy and sell shares (equity 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. These and other stocks may also 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 (in exchange 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 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 commodities 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 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 bid–ask 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 an electronic 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 the 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 system was fully automated.
People trading stock will prefer to trade on the most popular exchange since this gives the largest number of potential counter parties (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 have probed dark pools.
Market participants include individual retail investors, institutional investors (e.g., pension funds, insurance companies, mutual funds, index funds, exchange-traded funds, hedge funds, investor groups, banks and various other financial institutions), and also publicly traded corporations trading in their own shares. Robo-advisors, which automate investment for individuals are also major participants.
Demographics of market participation
Indirect vs. Direct Investment
Indirect investment involves owning shares indirectly, such as via a mutual fund or an exchange traded fund. Direct investment involves direct ownership of shares.
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 differ 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 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 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 2003 paper by Vissing-Jørgensen 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.
History of Stock market
In 20th-century France, the courtiers 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. The Italian historian Lodovico Guicciardini described how, in late 13th-century Bruges, commodity traders gathered outdoors at a market square containing an inn owned by a family called Van der Beurze, and in 1409 they became the “Brugse Beurse”, institutionalizing what had been, until then, an informal meeting. The idea quickly spread around Flanders and neighboring countries and “Beurzen” soon opened in Ghent and Rotterdam. International traders, and specially the Italian bankers, present in Bruges since the early 13th-century, took back the word in their countries to define the place for stock market exchange: first the Italians (Borsa), but soon also the French (Bourse), the Germans (börse), Russians (birža), Czechs (burza), Swedes (börs), Danes and Norwegians (børs). In most languages the word coincides with that for money bag, dating back to the Latin bursa, from which obviously also derives the name of the Van der Beurse family.
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. Around this time, a joint stock company—one whose stock is owned jointly by the shareholders—emerged and became important for colonization of what Europeans called the “New World”.
The first modern stock, for the Dutch East India Company, was traded on the Nieuwe Brug in Amsterdam, the Netherlands in 1602. Initially only trading on that single company, the first derivatives were traded in 1607, with the first dividend distributions following several years later. Futures trading and short-selling were also invented in Amsterdam in these early years.
Birth of formal stock markets
(…) This enigmatic business [i.e. the inner workings of the stock exchange in Amsterdam, primarily the practice of VOC and WIC stock trading] which is at once the fairest and most deceitful in Europe, the noblest and the most infamous in the world, the finest and the most vulgar on earth. It is a quintessence of academic learning and a paragon of fraudulence; it is a touchstone for the intelligent and a tombstone for the audacious, a treasury of usefulness and a source of disaster, (…) .
— Joseph de la Vega, in his book Confusión de confusiones (1688)
The stock market — the daytime adventure serial of the well-to-do — would not be the stock market if it did not have its ups and downs. (…) And it has many other distinctive characteristics. Apart from the economic advantages and disadvantages of stock exchanges — the advantage that they provide a free flow of capital to finance industrial expansion, for instance, and the disadvantage that they provide an all too convenient way for the unlucky, the imprudent, and the gullible to lose their money — their development has created a whole pattern of social behavior, complete with customs, language, and predictable responses to given events. What is truly extraordinary is the speed with which this pattern emerged full blown following the establishment, in 1611, of the world’s first important stock exchange — a roofless courtyard in Amsterdam — and the degree to which it persists (with variations, it is true) on the New York Stock Exchange in the nineteen-sixties. Present-day stock trading in the United States — a bewilderingly vast enterprise, involving millions of miles of private telegraph wires, computers that can read and copy the Manhattan Telephone Directory in three minutes, and over twenty million stockholder participants — would seem to be a far cry from a handful of seventeenth-century Dutchmen haggling in the rain. But the field marks are much the same. The first stock exchange was, inadvertently, a laboratory in which new human reactions were revealed. By the same token, the New York Stock Exchange is also a sociological test tube, forever contributing to the human species’ self-understanding. The behaviour of the pioneering Dutch stock traders is ably documented in a book entitled “Confusion of Confusions,” written by a plunger on the Amsterdam market named Joseph de la Vega; originally published in 1688, (…)
— John Brooks, in “Business Adventures” (1968)
Business ventures with multiple shareholders became popular with commenda contracts in medieval Italy (Greif, 2006, p. 286), and Malmendier (2009) provides evidence that shareholder companies date back to ancient Rome. Yet the title of the world’s first stock market deservedly goes to that of seventeenth-century Amsterdam, where an active secondary market in company shares emerged. The two major companies were the Dutch East India Company and the Dutch West India Company, founded in 1602 and 1621. Other companies existed, but they were not as large and constituted a small portion of the stock market.
— Edward P. Stringham & Nicholas A. Curott, in “The Oxford Handbook of Austrian Economics” [On the Origins of Stock Markets] (2015)
In the 17th and 18th centuries, the Dutch pioneered several financial innovations that helped lay the foundations of the 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.