We are taught so many integral subjects in secondary school. Mathematics, science, reading comprehension, government, and more, but we are not taught about money and investing. Some activists and politicians are currently trying to change that, but we all know how long that can take. So getting familiar with the stock market can surely be daunting, especially since many of us don’t have the finance background it takes to make accurate assessments of the money market.
But there is hope! Learning how to trade stocks is offered through courses here at Udemy. From courses on how to be a stock trading ninja to receiving a beginner’s guide to technical analysis of stock charts, our courses can enable anyone to trade on the stock market.
A Little Background
- The Stock Market
According to Investopedia, a stock market is the market in which shares of publicly held companies are issued and traded either through exchanges or over-the-counter markets. Also known as the equity market, the stock market is one of the most vital components of a free-market economy, as it provides companies with access to capital in exchange for giving investors a slice of ownership in the company. The stock market makes it possible to grow small initial sums of money into large ones, and to become wealthy without taking the risk of starting a business or making the sacrifices that often accompany a high-paying career.
The stock market lets investors participate in the financial achievements of the companies whose shares they hold. When companies are profitable, stock market investors make money through the dividends the companies pay out and by selling appreciated stocks at a profit called a capital gain. The downside is that investors can lose money if the companies whose stocks they hold lose money, the stocks’ prices goes down and the investor sells the stocks at a loss.
The stock market can be split into two main sections: the primary market and the secondary market. The primary market is where new issues are first sold through initial public offerings. Institutional investors typically purchase most of these shares from investment banks. All subsequent trading goes on in the secondary market where participants include both institutional and individual investors.
Stocks are traded through exchanges. The two biggest stock exchanges in the United States are the New York Stock Exchange, founded in 1792, and the Nasdaq, founded in 1971. Today, most stock market trades are executed electronically, and even the stocks themselves are almost always held in electronic form, not as physical certificates.
If you want to know how the stock market is performing, you can consult an index of stocks for the whole market or for a segment of the market. Examples include the Dow Jones Industrial Average, Nasdaq index, Russell 2000, Standard and Poor’s 500, and Morgan Stanley Europe, Australasia and Far East index.
- Trading Stocks
Most stocks are traded on exchanges, which are places where buyers and sellers meet and decide on a price. Some exchanges are physical locations where transactions are carried out on a trading floor. You’ve probably seen pictures of a trading floor, in which traders are wildly throwing their arms up, waving, yelling, and signaling to each other. The other type of exchange is virtual, composed of a network of computers where trades are made electronically.
The purpose of a stock market is to facilitate the exchange of securities between buyers and sellers, reducing the risks of investing. Just imagine how difficult it would be to sell shares if you had to call around the neighborhood trying to find a buyer. Really, a stock market is nothing more than a super-sophisticated farmers’ market linking buyers and sellers.
- The New York Stock Exchange
The most prestigious exchange in the world is the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE). The “Big Board” was founded over 200 years ago in 1792 with the signing of the Buttonwood Agreement by 24 New York City stockbrokers and merchants. Currently the NYSE, with stocks like General Electric, McDonald’s, Citigroup, Coca-Cola, Gillette and Wal-mart, is the market of choice for the largest companies in America.
The NYSE is the first type of exchange, where much of the trading is done face-to-face on a trading floor. This is also referred to as a listed exchange. Orders come in through brokerage firms that are members of the exchange and flow down to floor brokers who go to a specific spot on the floor where the stock trades. At this location, known as the trading post, there is a specific person known as the specialist whose job is to match buyers and sellers. Prices are determined using an auction method: the current price is the highest amount any buyer is willing to pay and the lowest price at which someone is willing to sell. Once a trade has been made, the details are sent back to the brokerage firm, who then notifies the investor who placed the order. Although there is human contact in this process, don’t think that the NYSE is still in the stone age: computers play a huge role in the process.
- The Nasdaq
The second type of exchange is the virtual sort called an over-the-counter (OTC) market, of which the Nasdaq is the most popular. These markets have no central location or floor brokers, whatsoever. Trading is done through a computer and telecommunications network of dealers. It used to be that the largest companies were listed only on the NYSE while all other second tier stocks traded on the other exchanges. The tech boom of the late ’90s changed all this; now the Nasdaq is home to several big technology companies such as Microsoft, Cisco, Intel, Dell and Oracle. This has resulted in the Nasdaq becoming a serious competitor to the NYSE.
On the Nasdaq brokerages act as market makers for various stocks. A market maker provides continuous bid and ask prices within a prescribed percentage spread for shares for which they are designated to make a market. They may match up buyers and sellers directly but usually they will maintain an inventory of shares to meet demands of investors.
- Other Exchanges
The third largest exchange in the U.S. is the American Stock Exchange (AMEX). The AMEX used to be an alternative to the NYSE, but that role has since been filled by the Nasdaq. In fact, the National Association of Securities Dealers (NASD), which is the parent of Nasdaq, bought the AMEX in 1998. Almost all trading now on the AMEX is in small-cap stocks and derivatives.
There are many stock exchanges located in just about every country around the world. American markets are undoubtedly the largest, but they still represent only a fraction of total investment around the globe. The two other main financial hubs are London, home of the London Stock Exchange, and Hong Kong, home of the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. The last place worth mentioning is the over-the-counter bulletin board (OTCBB). The Nasdaq is an over-the-counter market, but the term commonly refers to small public companies that don’t meet the listing requirements of any of the regulated markets, including the Nasdaq. The OTCBB is home to penny stocks because there is little to no regulation. This makes investing in an OTCBB stock very risky.
Practice Makes Perfect?
Ok, maybe not perfect, but with a little practice you will be better at stock trading than when you first tapped into the market. Various opportunities to practice stock trading involve simulated practice of trading stocks as well as lessons to provide you with the necessary information to know what you are getting yourself into.