Equity Market

Loading the player...

What is the '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 stocks. 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 in order 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 in order 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. Prior to the AEX, many countries and towns had their own 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, there are many investors 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 in order 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 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.

RELATED TERMS
  1. Exchange

    A marketplace in which securities, commodities, derivatives and ...
  2. Primary Listing

    The main stock exchange where a publicly traded company's stock ...
  3. Listing Requirements

    Various standards that are established by stock exchanges (such ...
  4. Primary Exchange

    The most important stock exchange in a given country. Common ...
  5. Listed Security

    A financial instrument that is traded through an exchange, such ...
  6. Interlisted Stock

    A security that is listed on multiple stock exchanges. An interlisted ...
Related Articles
  1. Investing Basics

    What is the Stock Market?

    A stock market is where shares in corporations are issued and traded. Stock markets are key components of a free market economy.
  2. Investing Basics

    Stocks Basics: How Stocks Trade

    Most stocks are traded on exchanges, which are places where buyers and sellers meet and decide on a price. Some exchanges are physical locations where transactions are carried out on a trading ...
  3. Investing Basics

    Stock Exchanges Around The World

    We tell you about five of the most popular stock exchanges from around the globe.
  4. Markets

    Who Owns The Stock Exchanges?

    As M&A heats up among the exchanges, here's how the market currently looks.
  5. Fundamental Analysis

    Stock Exchanges: A Global Tour

    Check out the history and inner workings of the world's six most well-known stock exchanges.
  6. Options & Futures

    Getting To Know The Stock Exchanges

    Here are the answers to all the questions you have about stock exchanges but are too afraid to ask!
  7. Investing Basics

    A Breakdown on How the Stock Market Works

    Learn what it means to own stocks and shares, why shares exist, and how you buy and sell them.
  8. Personal Finance

    The Birth Of Stock Exchanges

    Learn how British coffeehouses helped give rise to the juggernaut that is the NYSE.
  9. Investing Basics

    A Look At Primary And Secondary Markets

    Knowing how the primary and secondary markets work is key to understanding how stocks trade.
  10. Investing Basics

    Explaining the Equity Market

    Equity market is a general term referring to a place were corporate stocks are sold.
RELATED FAQS
  1. What does it mean when my broker says that shares are for auction?

    An auction market is one in which stock buyers enter competitive bids and stock sellers enter competitive offers at the same ... Read Answer >>
  2. What exactly is being done when shares are bought and sold?

    Most stocks are traded on physical or virtual exchanges. The New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), for example, is a physical exchange ... Read Answer >>
  3. What is the difference between the bond market and the stock market?

    The bond market is where investors go to trade (buy and sell) debt securities, prominently bonds. The stock market is a place ... Read Answer >>
  4. How does a company switch from one stock exchange to another?

    A publicly traded company can, in fact, switch to a stock exchange that it believes will be favorable to its financing efforts. ... Read Answer >>
  5. Can stocks be traded on more than one exchange, such as, for example, on both the ...

    A stock can trade on any exchange on which it is listed. And to be listed it must meet all of the exchange's listing requirements ... Read Answer >>
  6. Why is the Nasdaq more volatile than the NYSE?

    Learn about the stocks that are traded on the Nasdaq stock exchange, and discover the Nasdaq's relative volatility level ... Read Answer >>
Hot Definitions
  1. Demand Curve

    The demand curve is a graphical representation of the relationship between the price of a good or service and the quantity ...
  2. Goldilocks Economy

    An economy that is not so hot that it causes inflation, and not so cold that it causes a recession. This term is used to ...
  3. White Squire

    Very similar to a "white knight", but instead of purchasing a majority interest, the squire purchases a lesser interest in ...
  4. MACD Technical Indicator

    Moving Average Convergence Divergence (or MACD) is a trend-following momentum indicator that shows the relationship between ...
  5. Over-The-Counter - OTC

    Over-The-Counter (or OTC) is a security traded in some context other than on a formal exchange such as the NYSE, TSX, AMEX, ...
  6. Quarter - Q1, Q2, Q3, Q4

    A three-month period on a financial calendar that acts as a basis for the reporting of earnings and the paying of dividends.
Trading Center