Definition and Examples of Stock Exchanges
A stock exchange is just as likely to be a physical space as a virtual one, because these highly regulated institutions are now dominated by electronic trading.
The listed stock exchanges in the United States are the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) and the Nasdaq. The NYSE requires companies to maintain a share price of at least $4.
The Nasdaq was the first electronic exchange allowing investors to buy and sell stock electronically, without a trading floor. Companies that are selling shares to the public market for the first time with an initial public offering (IPO) are most likely to use the Nasdaq. The letters in the name are an abbreviation for the "National Association of Securities Dealers Automated Quotations."
If a stock does not trade on a listed exchange, it can still trade in the over-the-counter (OTC) market, which is a less formal and less regulated venue.
These OTC-traded shares typically will involve smaller (and riskier) companies, such as penny stocks that do not meet the listing requirements for established stock exchanges.
How a Stock Exchange Works
Stockholders will want to sell their stake someday. Without a stock exchange, these owners would have to find a buyer by going to friends, family, or community members. The exchange makes it easier to find a buyer in what is known as the "secondary market."
With a stock exchange, you will probably never know the person on the other end of your trade. It could be a retired teacher halfway around the world. It could be a multi-billion-dollar insurance group, a publicly traded mutual fund, or a hedge fund.
The exchange works like an auction, and traders who believe that a company will do well will bid the price up, while those who believe that it will do poorly will bid it down. Buyers want to get the lowest price they can so they can sell for a profit later, while sellers are usually looking for the best price.
In the United States, on May 17, 1792, a group of 24 stockbrokers met under a buttonwood tree outside 68 Wall Street in New York City. They signed the now-famous Buttonwood Agreement, which effectively created the New York Stock & Exchange Board (NYSEB).
The need for convenience is what led to the establishment of the biggest stock exchange in the world.
Almost three-quarters of a century later, in 1863, the NYSEB was officially renamed the New York Stock Exchange. These days, most people refer to it as the NYSE.
At one time, the United States had thriving regional stock exchanges that were major hubs for their particular part of the country. In San Francisco, for example, the Pacific Stock Exchange had an open-outcry system, where brokers would handle buy and sell orders for local investors who wanted to purchase shares or liquidate their ownership stakes.
Most of these exchanges were shut down, purchased, absorbed, or merged following the rise of the microchip, which made electronic networks much more efficient for finding liquidity so that an investor in California could just as easily sell their shares to someone in Zurich.
Stock Exchanges Around the World
|New York Stock Exchange||New York City|
|Nasdaq||New York City|
|Tokyo Stock Exchange / Japan Exchange Group||Tokyo, Japan|
|Shanghai Stock Exchange||Shanghai, China|
|Hong Kong Exchange||Hong Kong|
|Euronext||France, Portugal, Netherlands, Belgium|
|Shenzen Stock Exchange||Shenzen, China|
|London Stock Exchange Group||UK, Italy|
|TMX Group||Toronto, Canada|
|BSE India Ltd.||Mumbai, India|
- Stock exchanges are trading places to buy and sell stock.
- They are as likely to be in a physical space as an electronic one, given the proliferation of electronic trading.
- Companies may use an exchange to raise capital in the secondary market through an IPO.
- Globalization means that a trade made in New York could involve a buyer in Zurich.
Vanguard. "Stock Exchanges." Accessed Dec. 12, 2021.
New York Stock Exchange. "Choosing the Right Listing." Accessed Dec. 12, 2021.
Library of Congress. "Wall Street and the Stock Exchanges: Historical Resources." Accessed Dec. 12, 2021.
FINRA. "Unraveling the Mystery of Over-the-Counter Trading." Accessed Dec. 12, 2021.