The movements of the prices in a market or section of a market are captured in price indices called stock market indices, of which there are many, e.g., the S&P, the FTSE and the Euronext indices. Such indices are usually market capitalization weighted, with the weights reflecting the contribution of the stock to the index. The constituents of the index are reviewed frequently to include/exclude stocks in order to reflect the changing business environment.
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In a 2003 paper by Vissing-Jørgensen attempts to explain disproportionate rates of participation along wealth and income groups as a function of fixed costs associated with investing. Her research concludes that a fixed cost of $200 per year is sufficient to explain why nearly half of all U.S. households do not participate in the market. Participation rates have been shown to strongly correlate with education levels, promoting the hypothesis that information and transaction costs of market participation are better absorbed by more educated households. Behavioral economists Harrison Hong, Jeffrey Kubik and Jeremy Stein suggest that sociability and participation rates of communities have a statistically significant impact on an individual's decision to participate in the market. Their research indicates that social individuals living in states with higher than average participation rates are 5% more likely to participate than individuals that do not share those characteristics. This phenomenon also explained in cost terms. Knowledge of market functioning diffuses through communities and consequently lowers transaction costs associated with investing.
To facilitate this process, a company needs a marketplace where these shares can be sold. This marketplace is provided by the stock market. If everything goes as per the plans, the company will successfully sell the 5 million shares at a price of $10 per share and collect $50 million worth of funds. Investors will get the company shares which they can expect to hold for their preferred duration, in anticipation of rising in share price and any potential income in the form of dividend payments. The stock exchange acts as a facilitator for this capital raising process and receives a fee for its services from the company and its financial partners.
The stock exchange shoulders the responsibility of ensuring price transparency, liquidity, price discovery and fair dealings in such trading activities. As almost all major stock markets across the globe now operate electronically, the exchange maintains trading systems that efficiently manage the buy and sell orders from various market participants. They perform the price matching function to facilitate trade execution at a price fair to both buyers and sellers.
Take for example the S&P 500 market index, which is comprised of 505 companies. Buying shares in 505 different companies would be very difficult to do. Thanks to mutual funds and ETFs, we can simply buy one single security that holds shares in all 505 companies. The largest S&P 500 mutual fund is the Vanguard 500 Index Fund Admiral Shares (VFIAX) and the largest S&P 500 ETF is the State Street Global Advisors SPDR S&P 500 ETF (SPY).
Sometimes, the market seems to react irrationally to economic or financial news, even if that news is likely to have no real effect on the fundamental value of securities itself. However, this market behaviour may be more apparent than real, since often such news was anticipated, and a counter reaction may occur if the news is better (or worse) than expected. Therefore, the stock market may be swayed in either direction by press releases, rumors, euphoria and mass panic.
Now that you've learned the basics of stock trading, you can get into the specific ways you can make money. Our trading stock strategy guide is a collection of articles explaining real-life techniques you can use to begin trading stocks. You'll learn how investors like Warren Buffett lower their cost basis through using stock options, how other stock traders make money by anticipating dividend changes, and much more.
In margin buying, the trader borrows money (at interest) to buy a stock and hopes for it to rise. Most industrialized countries have regulations that require that if the borrowing is based on collateral from other stocks the trader owns outright, it can be a maximum of a certain percentage of those other stocks' value. In the United States, the margin requirements have been 50% for many years (that is, if you want to make a $1000 investment, you need to put up $500, and there is often a maintenance margin below the $500).
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