Stock Exchange

Article byWallstreetmojo Team
Edited byAshish Kumar Srivastav
Reviewed byDheeraj Vaidya, CFA, FRM

What is Stock Exchange?

A stock exchange is a market setup where the buyers and sellers trade securities. The securities could be equity, bonds, debt instruments, or exchange-traded funds. The stock market works on the basic principle of matching supply and demand through an auction process.

The trading platforms follow the rules and regulations enforced by an authoritative body. The Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) oversees trading in the US. The online exchange has made trading convenient even for small investors and traders. Now they can easily keep track of their purchases. They can buy or sell securities within seconds.

Key Takeaways

  • A stock exchange is a market arrangement that facilitates the trading of securities among the participants. It is a medium for the interaction of buyers and sellers.
  • It is governed by stock regulatory bodies like the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC).
  • Listed companies are able to acquire funds, all thanks to the stock market. This is done through Initial Public Offerings (IPOs) released in the primary market. Using this facility, Investors, traders, and speculators generate revenue from stock trading.

Stock Exchange

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Stock Exchange Explained

A stock exchange is a mediator or facilitator that connects various market participants. The traded products include shares of a publicly-traded company, debt instrumentsDebt InstrumentsDebt instruments provide finance for the company's growth, investments, and future planning and agree to repay the same within the stipulated time. Long-term instruments include debentures, bonds, GDRs from foreign investors. Short-term instruments include working capital loans, short-term more, exchange-traded fundsExchange-traded FundsAn exchange-traded fund (ETF) is a security that contains many types of securities such as bonds, stocks, commodities, and so on, and that trades on the exchange like a stock, with the price fluctuating many times throughout the day when the exchange-traded fund is bought and sold on the more (ETFs), indices, equity swaps, single-stock futures, and stock index futures. Just like the SEC, European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA) regulates exchanges in Europe.

An exchange can be bifurcated into two: the primary marketPrimary MarketThe primary market is where debt-based, equity-based or any other asset-based securities are created, underwritten and sold off to investors. It is a part of the capital market where new securities are created and directly purchased by the more and the secondary marketSecondary MarketA secondary market is a platform where investors can easily buy or sell securities once issued by the original issuer, be it a bank, corporation, or government entity. Also referred to as an aftermarket, it allows investors to trade securities freely without interference from those who issue more. In the primary market, new issues or the initial public offeringsInitial Public OfferingsAn initial public offering (IPO) occurs when a private company makes its shares available to the general public for the first time. IPO is a means of raising capital for companies by allowing them to trade their shares on the stock more (IPOs) are announced. This is referred to as “going publicGoing PublicGoing public is a corporate practice in which an unlisted, private company allows the public to purchase its old or new stock for the first time. read more.” The secondary market facilitates the procurement and sale of existing securities that debuted during their IPO.

A stock market involves various participants: the brokers who invest clients’ money; the dealers who trade on their behalf; the broker-dealers who buy and sell stocks for themselves and their clients; and finally the market makers who aim to reap profit and improve the market’s efficiency.

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History of Stock Exchanges

The history of stock exchanges can be traced back to the 1300s when the Venetian lenders offered debt issues to various investors and lenders. Their role was similar to that of the brokers. The Venetians kept a record of all sales. Evidently, the first exchange was set up in Belgium in the 1500s. It was named “Sans the Stock” and facilitated the trade of bondsBondsBonds refer to the debt instruments issued by governments or corporations to acquire investors’ funds for a certain more and promissory notesPromissory NotesA promissory note is defined as a debt instrument in which the issuer of the note promises to pay a specified amount to a party on a particular more.

In the 1600s, the East India Company issued stocks to raise money for the sea journey, which was a risk. The investment was subject to weather turmoil, pirate invasions, and loss of direction. Nevertheless, the investors were promised a percentage of sales if the ship reached its destination.

Ultimately in 1791, a well-channelized stock market. came into existence. The US stock exchange and National Association of Securities Dealers Automated Quotations (NASDAQ) were formed. It trades all kinds of securities and has an electronic trading system. It had competitors; the more advanced New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), formed in 1793. The NYSE further facilitated the trading of securities on a global scale.

Features of Stock Exchange

The stock market is a central government-recognized framework and functions under the guidance of an authoritative body. It aims to ensure fair trading practices and safeguards the interest of retail and institutional investorsInstitutional InvestorsInstitutional investors are entities that pool money from a variety of investors and individuals to create a large sum that is then handed to investment managers who invest it in a variety of assets, shares, and securities. Banks, NBFCs, mutual funds, pension funds, and hedge funds are all more. This is achieved by keeping track of every transaction. Moreover, brokers act as mediators between the companies and traders.

In such a marketplace, the buyers and sellers can exchange any listed securitiesListed SecuritiesListed security refers to a financial instrument such as stocks, bonds, derivatives, etc., registered with and readily tradable on the stock exchanges like NASDAQ and more, whether offered by companies or government organizations. The benchmark index indicates the ups and downs of the market. Besides, the stock market also deals in secondary securities, i.e., the ones which the companies have already issued.

Biggest Stock Exchanges in World

Given below is a list of the top 5 exchanges in the world:

  1. New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), USA: NYSE is the world’s largest stock market located in the US. It was founded in 1792 and has a market capitalizationMarket CapitalizationMarket capitalization is the market value of a company’s outstanding shares. It is computed as the product of the total number of outstanding shares and the price of each more of $24.5 trillion with 2400 listed companies.
  2. National Association of Securities Dealers Automated Quotations (NASDAQ), USA: The NASDAQ came into existence in 1791. With a listing of 3000 companies and a market capitalization of 19.34 trillion, it became the world’s second-largest stock exchange.
  3. Shanghai Stock Exchange (SSE), China: Although the third-largest in the world, SSE is the top stock market in China. It was formed in 1990 and possessed a market cap of $6.98 trillion. It is an exchange operating independently in the People’s Republic of China.
  4. European New Exchange Technology (EURONEXT), pan-Europe: EURONEXT is an exchange operational across the different states of Europe. Its MCap values $6.65 trillion and lists different kinds of securities, especially debtDebtDebt is the practice of borrowing a tangible item, primarily money by an individual, business, or government, from another person, financial institution, or more and funds.
  5. Hong Kong Stock Exchange (HKEX), Hong Kong: HKEX, established in 1891, has a market cap worth $6.48 trillion. The Hang Seng index is its benchmark.


Stock markets are further classified into the following four categories:

  1. Dealer Market: A market where the dealers are the price setters as they declare the purchase or sale price of securities at a specific value. This type focuses on market movement and efficiency.
  2. Auction Market: In such a marketplace, the price is determined by the highest bid made by a broker and the lowest selling price that the seller accepts.
  3. Over The Counter Exchange: The OTC exchange facilitates securities trading via broker-dealers. These are stocks that are not part of top stock markets. Companies that fail to get listed, sell their securities over the counter.
  4. Electronic Exchange: It is a form of direct selling and buying of securities on a virtual trading platform. Here, the market makersMarket MakersMarket makers are the financial institution and investment banks which ensures enough amount of liquidity in the market by maintaining enough trading volume in the market so that trading can be done without any more have no role to play. The Electronic Communication Network (ECN) plays the role of a broker. In the present era, almost all stock markets have an electronic trading facility.  

Functions of Stock Exchange

The role of a stock market is not limited to capital accumulationCapital AccumulationCapital Accumulation is the increase in the value of an investment or a financial asset, whether it is tangible or intangible. Interest, royalties, rent, dividend, capital gains are the most common examples of capital more; it is much more than that. Let us see how:

#1 – Validation and Authentication of Transactions

There are numerous buying and selling requests on the stock market, which could sometimes lead to an inefficient transaction. Hence, it is the responsibility of the stock market to validate each transaction. Furthermore, they make sure that the transactions are processed correctly, eliminating any room for error.

#2 – Price Determination

Prices of shares and other financial instrumentsFinancial InstrumentsFinancial instruments are certain contracts or documents that act as financial assets such as debentures and bonds, receivables, cash deposits, bank balances, swaps, cap, futures, shares, bills of exchange, forwards, FRA or forward rate agreement, etc. to one organization and as a liability to another organization and are solely taken into use for trading more depend on the prevailing demand and supply. So, it is one of the functions of the stock market to accurately determine the price of a particular product. Thus, any blunder in such a mechanism could lead to more or less pay for the product.

#3 – Acts as Economic Barometer

Every stock market is a reflection of the country’s economyEconomyAn economy comprises individuals, commercial entities, and the government involved in the production, distribution, exchange, and consumption of products and services in a more. It keeps a check over the ups and downs of the market, price variation of stocks, and the impact of price variation on the economy.

#4 – Ensures Economic Growth

It facilitates the purchase and sale of securities and other financial instruments in the open market. This, in turn, indicates a constant circulation of money in the economy. Circulation is seen as a sign of a healthy economy.

#5 – Provides Liquidity

Stock exchanges offer flexibility to investors and traders. They can purchase and sell securities at any time (during trading hours). Thus, it is a marketplace that ensures the liquidityLiquidityLiquidity is the ease of converting assets or securities into more of funds put in by the participants.

#6 – Promotes Investment

The stock market motivates retail investorsRetail InvestorsA retail investor is a non-professional individual investor who tends to invest a small sum in the equities, bonds, mutual funds, exchange-traded funds, and other baskets of securities. They often take the services of online or traditional brokerage firms or advisors for investment more to participate in trading activities. In addition, it nudges investors into investing in stocks so that they can generate a passive incomePassive IncomePassive income is the cash flow generated by an individual with minimum or no effort at regular intervals. It gives them additional financial security while requiring some amount of hard work initially, such as maintaining rental properties, making investments, upgrading products, more.

#7 – Encourages Healthy Speculation

Now, speculation is not always illegal; instead, a stock market strategically encourages a certain level of speculation. Speculation is essential for accelerating the demand and supply of stocks.  

Importance of Stock Exchange

The price movement of the listed stocks determines economic fluctuations prevailing within a nation. In addition, various companies require funding to carry out businesses and start new ventures. In order to raise capital, they issue different financial instruments, shares, and debenturesDebenturesDebentures refer to long-term debt instruments issued by a government or corporation to meet its financial requirements. In return, investors are compensated with an interest income for being a creditor to the more.

Moreover, investors often seek handsome returns on their money. The stock market provides them an option. The stock market is a popular choice for generating passive income.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is the main role of the stock exchange?

The stock market is a platform that facilitates buying and selling of financial instruments under the regulations of an authoritative body. In the US, The Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) oversees trading.
The exchange is a medium for the listed companies to issue securities and acquire funds from the investors. These funds are then put into the business for generating revenue. Ultimately the profits provide returns to the shareholders.

What are the three major stock exchanges?

The world’s three most prominent exchanges are as follows.
1. New York Stock Exchange (NYSE)
2. National Association of Securities Dealers Automated Quotations (NASDAQ)
3. Shanghai Stock Exchange (SSE)

How do stocks make you money?

Investors buy securities, and the securities yield returns in two different ways. Some financial instruments like equity make money by capital appreciation (the profit adds up to the stock value), while others such as bonds and debentures offer regular dividends.

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