What Is the American Stock Exchange (AMEX)?

The American Stock Exchange (AMEX) was once the third-largest stock exchange in the United States, as measured by trading volume. The exchange, at its height, handled about 10% of all securities traded in the U.S.

Today, the AMEX is known as the NYSE American. In 2008, NYSE Euronext acquired the AMEX. In the subsequent years, it also became known as NYSE Amex Equities and NYSE MKT.

Key Takeaways

  • The American Stock Exchange (AMEX) was once the third-largest stock exchange in the U.S.
  • NYSE Euronext acquired the AMEX in 2008 and today it is known as the NYSE American.
  • The majority of trading on the NYSE American is in small cap stocks.
  • The NYSE American uses market makers to ensure liquidity and an orderly marketplace for its listed securities.

Understanding the American Stock Exchange (AMEX)

The AMEX developed a reputation over time as an exchange that introduced and traded new products and asset classes. For example, it launched its options market in 1975. Options are a type of derivative security. They are contracts that grant the holder the right to buy or sell an asset at a set price on or before a certain date, without the obligation to do so. When the AMEX launched its options market, it also distributed educational materials to help educate investors as to the potential benefits and risks.

The AMEX used to be a larger competitor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), but over time the Nasdaq filled that role.

In 1993, the AMEX introduced the first exchange traded fund (ETF). The ETF, now a popular investment, is a type of security that tracks an index or a basket of assets. They are much like mutual funds but differ in that they trade like stocks on an exchange.

Over time, the AMEX gained the reputation of listing companies that could not meet the strict requirements of the NYSE. Today, a good portion of trading on the NYSE American is in small cap stocks. It operates as a fully electronic exchange.

History of the American Stock Exchange (AMEX)

The AMEX dates back to the late 18th century when the American trading market was still developing. At that time, without a formalized exchange, stockbrokers would meet in coffeehouses and on the street to trade securities. For this reason, the AMEX became known at one time as the New York Curb Exchange.

The traders who originally met in the streets of New York became known as curbstone brokers. They specialized in trading stocks of emerging companies. At the time, many of these emerging businesses were in industries such as railroads, oil, and textiles, while those industries were still getting off the ground.

In the 19th century, this type of curbside trading was informal and quite disorganized. In 1908, the New York Curb Market Agency was established in order to bring rules and regulations to trading practices.

In 1929, the New York Curb Market became the New York Curb Exchange. It had a formalized trading floor and a set of rules and regulations. In the 1950s, more and more emerging businesses began trading their stocks on the New York Curb Exchange. The value of companies listed on the exchange almost doubled between 1950 and 1960, going from $12 billion to $23 billion during that time. The New York Curb Exchange changed its name to the American Stock Exchange in 1953.

Special Considerations

Over the years, the NYSE American has become an attractive listing place for younger, entrepreneurial companies, some of whom are in the early stages of their growth and certainly not as well-known as blue chip companies. Compared to the NYSE and Nasdaq, the NYSE American trades at much smaller volumes.

Because of these factors, there could be concerns that investors would not be able to quickly buy and sell some securities in the market. To ensure market liquidity—which is the ease at which a security can be converted to cash without impacting its market price—the NYSE American offers electronic designated market makers.

Market makers are individuals or firms that are available to buy and sell a particular security as needed throughout the trading session. These designated market makers have quoting obligations for specific NYSE American-listed companies. In return for making a market for a security, market makers earn money through the bid-ask spread and from fees and commissions. So, despite the fact that the NYSE American is a smaller-volume exchange specializing in listing smaller companies, its use of market makers enables it to maintain liquidity and an orderly market.