What is the Stock Market?
The stock market refers to public markets that exist for issuing, buying and selling stocks that trade on a stock exchange or over-the-counter. Stocks, also known as equities, represent fractional ownership in a company, and the stock market is a place where investors can buy and sell ownership of such investible assets. An efficiently functioning stock market is considered critical to economic development, as it gives companies the ability to quickly access capital from the public.
In a share market, shares are bought and sold. The stock market is a share market, however besides shares of companies, other instruments like bonds, mutual funds and derivative contracts too are traded in the stock market.
Different Types of Stock Market
There are two kinds of share markets:
- Primary stock market
- Secondary stock market
Primary Stock Market
A company enters the primary market to raise funds. It is in the primary market that a company gets registered to issue shares to the public and raise money. Companies generally get listed on the stock exchange through the primary market route. In case a company is selling shares for the first time, it is called an Initial Public Offering or IPO, after which the company becomes public. While going for an IPO, the company has to provide details about itself, its financials, it promoters, its businesses, stocks being issued, price band and so on.
Secondary Stock Market
In the secondary market, investors trade already listed securities by buying and selling them. Secondary market transactions are transactions where one investor buys shares from another at the prevailing price. Normally, these transactions are conducted through a broker. Secondary market offers investors a chance to sell all its shares and exit the financial market.
For example: Shares of Tata Steel are trading in the market at Rs 230 a share. An investor can buy these shares at current market price and will get part-ownership of the company and become a shareholder.
The share market is a source for companies to raise funds and for investors to buy part-ownership in growing businesses and grow their wealth. On becoming a shareholder, an investor earns a part of the profits earned by the company by way of dividend. At the same time, the investor also undertakes the risk to bear loses, should the business fail to perform well. Market participants need to get registered with the stock exchange and market regulator Sebi to be able to trade in the stock market.
Once new securities have been sold in the primary market, they are traded in the secondary market—where one investor buys shares from another investor at the prevailing market price or at whatever price both the buyer and seller agree upon. The secondary market or the stock exchanges are regulated by the regulatory authority. In India, the secondary and primary markets are governed by the Security and Exchange Board of India (SEBI).
Purposes of the Stock Market – Capital and Investment Income
The stock market serves two very important purposes. The first is to provide capital to companies that they can use to fund and expand their businesses. If a company issues one million shares of stock that initially sell for $10 a share, then that provides the company with $10 million of capital that it can use to grow its business (minus whatever fees the company pays for an investment bank to manage the stock offering). By offering stock shares instead of borrowing the capital needed for expansion, the company avoids incurring debt and paying interest charges on that debt.
The secondary purpose the stock market serves is to give investors – those who purchase stocks – the opportunity to share in the profits of publicly-traded companies. Investors can profit from stock buying in one of two ways. Some stocks pay regular dividends (a given amount of money per share of stock someone owns). The other way investors can profit from buying stocks is by selling their stock for a profit if the stock price increases from their purchase price. For example, if an investor buys shares of a company’s stock at $10 a share and the price of the stock subsequently rises to $15 a share, the investor can then realize a 50% profit on their investment by selling their shares.
Stock Market Indexes
The overall performance of the stock markets is usually tracked and reflected in the performance of various stock market indexes. Stock indexes are composed of a selection of stocks that is designed to reflect how stocks are performing overall. Stock market indexes themselves are traded in the form of options and futures contracts which are also traded on regulated exchanges.
Among the key stock market indexes are the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA), the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index (S&P 500), the Financial Times Stock Exchange 100 Index (FTSE 100), the Nikkei 225 Index, the NASDAQ Composite Index, and the Hang Seng Index.