Stock investing is filled with intricate strategies and approaches, yet some of the most successful investors have done little more than stick with the basics. That generally means using funds for the bulk of your portfolio — Warren Buffett has famously said a low-cost S&P 500 index fund is the best investment most Americans can make — and choosing individual stocks only if you believe in the company’s potential for long-term growth.
The rise of the institutional investor has brought with it some improvements in market operations. There has been a gradual tendency for "fixed" (and exorbitant) fees being reduced for all investors, partly from falling administration costs but also assisted by large institutions challenging brokers' oligopolistic approach to setting standardized fees. A current trend in stock market investments includes the decrease in fees due to computerized asset management termed robo-advisors within the industry. Automation has decreased portfolio management costs by lowering the cost associated with investing as a whole.
Replica of an East Indiaman of the Dutch East India Company/United East Indies Company (VOC). The Dutch East India Company was the first corporation to be ever actually listed on an official stock exchange. In 1611, the world's first stock exchange (in its modern sense) was launched by the VOC in Amsterdam. In Robert Shiller's own words, the VOC was "the first real important stock" in the history of finance.
That said, learning the logistics of how to buy stocks and earmarking a small sliver of your investable assets to buying individual stocks online can be fun and profitable. And at worst? As long as you don’t put money you can’t afford to lose on the line, stock trading will be a temporary diversion that leads to limited losses, lessons learned and a few self-deprecating stories to entertain dinner guests.
There are many different approaches to investing. Many strategies can be classified as either fundamental analysis or technical analysis. Fundamental analysis refers to analyzing companies by their financial statements found in SEC filings, business trends, general economic conditions, etc. Technical analysis studies price actions in markets through the use of charts and quantitative techniques to attempt to forecast price trends regardless of the company's financial prospects. One example of a technical strategy is the Trend following method, used by John W. Henry and Ed Seykota, which uses price patterns and is also rooted in risk control and diversification.
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.
Each publicly traded company lists their shares on a stock exchange. The two largest exchanges in the world are the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) and the NASDAQ; both are based in the United States (Wikipedia). Attempting to grasp just how large the NYSE and NASDAQ both are is certainly not easy. The NYSE has a market cap of nearly $31 trillion and the NASDAQ’s is nearly $11 trillion. And yes, that is not a typo, I said, “trillion”.
In the 17th and 18th centuries, the Dutch pioneered several financial innovations that helped lay the foundations of the modern financial system. While the Italian city-states produced the first transferable government bonds, they did not develop the other ingredient necessary to produce a fully fledged capital market: the stock market. In the early 1600s the Dutch East India Company (VOC) became the first company in history to issue bonds and shares of stock to the general public. As Edward Stringham (2015) notes, "companies with transferable shares date back to classical Rome, but these were usually not enduring endeavors and no considerable secondary market existed (Neal, 1997, p. 61)." The Dutch East India Company (founded in the year of 1602) was also the first joint-stock company to get a fixed capital stock and as a result, continuous trade in company stock occurred on the Amsterdam Exchange. Soon thereafter, a lively trade in various derivatives, among which options and repos, emerged on the Amsterdam market. Dutch traders also pioneered short selling – a practice which was banned by the Dutch authorities as early as 1610. Amsterdam-based businessman Joseph de la Vega's Confusion de Confusiones (1688) was the earliest known book about stock trading and first book on the inner workings of the stock market (including the stock exchange).
Such dedicated markets serve as a platform where numerous buyers and sellers meet, interact and transact. Since the number of market participants is huge, one is assured of a fair price. For example, if there is only one seller of Christmas trees in the entire city, he will have the liberty to charge any price he pleases as the buyers won’t have anywhere else to go. If the number of tree sellers is large in a common marketplace, they will have to compete against each other to attract buyers. The buyers will be spoiled for choice with low- or optimum-pricing making it a fair market with price transparency. Even while shopping online, buyers compare prices offered by different sellers on the same shopping portal or across different portals to get the best deals, forcing the various online sellers to offer the best price.
It allows companies to raise money by offering stock shares and corporate bonds. It lets common investors participate in the financial achievements of the companies, make profits through capital gains, and earn money through dividends, although losses are also possible. While institutional investors and professional money managers do enjoy some privileges owing to their deep pockets, better knowledge and higher risk taking abilities, the stock market attempts to offer a level playing field to common individuals.
Articles are a fantastic resource for education. My most popular posts are listed on my stock education page. The most popular website for investment education is investopedia.com. I also highly recommend reading the memos of billionaire Howard Marks (Oaktree Capital), which are absolutely terrific. Naturally, searching with Google search is another great way to find educational material to read.
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