1. Electronic Trading: Introduction
  2. Electronic Trading: The Nasdaq Vs. The NYSE
  3. Electronic Trading: The Role of a Specialist
  4. Electronic Trading: The Role of a Market Maker
  5. Electronic Trading: SuperDOT
  6. Electronic Trading: Electronic Communications Networks (ECNs)
  7. Electronic Trading: Small Order Execution System (SOES)
  8. Electronic Trading: Level I, II and III Access
  9. Electronic Trading: Conclusion


Market makers compete for customer order flows by displaying buy and sell quotations for a guaranteed number of shares. The difference between the price at which a market maker is willing to buy a security and the price at which the firm is willing to sell it is called the market maker spread. Because each market maker can either buy or sell a stock at any given time, the spread represents the market maker's profit on each trade. Once an order is received, the market maker immediately sells from its own inventory or seeks an offsetting order. There can be anywhere from four to 40 (or more) market makers for a particular stock depending on the average daily volume. The market makers play an important role in the secondary market as catalysts, particularly for enhancing stock liquidity and, therefore, for promoting long-term growth in the market.

Market makers must maintain continuous two-sided quotes (bid and ask) within a predefined spread. A market is created when the designated market maker quotes bids and offers over a period of time. They ensure there is a buyer for every sell order and a seller for every buy order at any time.

Once the market maker has entered a price, he or she is obligated to either buy or sell at least 1,000 securities at that advertised price. Once the market maker has either bought or sold these shares, he or she may then "leave the market" and enter a new bid or ask price to make a profit on the previous trade.

For example, let's say that a market maker has entered a sell order for Microsoft (MSFT) and the bid/ask is $65.25/$65.30. The market maker can try to sell shares of MSFT at $65.30. If this is what the market maker chooses to do, he or she can then turn around and enter a bid order to buy shares in MSFT. The market maker can bid higher or lower than the current bid of $65.25. If he or she enters a bid at $65.26 then a new market is created (referred to as making a market) because that bid price is now the best bid. If the market maker attracts a seller at the new bid price of $65.26 then he or she has successfully "made the spread." The market maker sold 1,000 shares at $65.30 and bought these shares back at $65.26. As a result, the market maker made $40 (1,000 shares x $0.04) on the difference between the two transactions. This might not seem like much, but doing this repeatedly with larger order sizes can provide lucrative profits. All day long market makers do this, providing liquidity to individual and institutional investors. The major risk for the market maker is the time lapse between the two transactions; the faster he or she can make the spread the more money the market maker has the potential to make.

However, making money from the differences in bid and ask prices is not the only function of market makers. Their first priority is to provide liquidity to their own firm's clients, for which they will receive a commission. They may also facilitate trading for other brokerage firms, which is very similar to the duties of a specialist.

It should also be noted that market makers are required by law to give customers the best bid or ask price for each market order transaction. This ensures a fair and reasonable two-sided market. If these regulations were not in place, customers' profits would be gouged and share prices would be much more volatile than they already are.

Electronic Trading: SuperDOT

Related Articles
  1. Investing

    Role Of A Market Maker

    A market maker is a firm or an individual that stands ready to buy and sell a particular security throughout the trading session to maintain liquidity and a fair and orderly market in that security. ...
  2. Personal Finance

    How Brokers Can Avoid A Market-Maker's Tricks

    Ensure that you and your clients are getting the best deal by avoiding these three pitfalls.
  3. Investing

    What Does Bid And Asked Mean?

    Bid and asked is a two-way price quotation.
  4. Trading

    Introduction To Level II Quotes

    Find out what's happening in a given stock with this service showing Nasdaq market makers' best bid and ask prices.
  5. Insights

    Designated Market Maker

    A designated market maker maintains fair and orderly markets for an assigned set of listed firms and improves market liquidity.
  6. Trading

    How To Pay Your Forex Broker

    Three types of commissions are used in this market. Learn how to get the best deal.
  7. Investing

    Wall Street's Liquidity Crunch

    Lower liquidity means more volatility.
  8. Trading

    Know Your Counterparty When Day Trading

    This can provide insight into how the market is likely to act based on your presence, orders and transactions.
  9. Trading

    Understanding Order Execution

    Find out the various ways in which a broker can fill an order, which can affect costs.
  10. Investing

    The Foreign Exchange Interbank Market

    Can your forex broker offer you the most competitive pricing? Learn how the market's biggest players affect you.
Frequently Asked Questions
  1. Depreciation Can Shield Taxes, Bolster Cash Flow

    Depreciation can be used as a tax-deductible expense to reduce tax costs, bolstering cash flow
  2. What schools did Warren Buffett attend on his way to getting his science and economics degrees?

    Learn how Warren Buffett became so successful through his attendance at multiple prestigious schools and his real-world experiences.
  3. How many attempts at each CFA exam is a candidate permitted?

    The CFA Institute allows an individual an unlimited amount of attempts at each examination.Although you can attempt the examination ...
  4. What's the average salary of a market research analyst?

    Learn about average stock market analyst salaries in the U.S. and different factors that affect salaries and overall levels ...
Trading Center