Scoop has an Ethical Paywall
Work smarter with a Pro licence Learn More

Video | Agriculture | Confidence | Economy | Energy | Employment | Finance | Media | Property | RBNZ | Science | SOEs | Tax | Technology | Telecoms | Tourism | Transport | Search


What Is The Stock Market And How Does It Work?

You hear about the stock market all the time in the news, but do you know what it is and how it works?

If you want to gain a better understanding of the stock market, this article is for you. We’ll go over what it is, how it works, and how to invest in it.

Let’s get started!

What Is the Stock Market?

Basically, the stock market is a venue for buyers and sellers to exchange shares of publicly traded companies.

Let’s break down what that means in more detail:

A stock is a type of security that represents fractional ownership in a company. That’s why they’re also known as equities or equity securities. When you buy a stock, you’re investing in the company.

The stock market is where traders can buy and sell stocks on one of several stock exchanges. The first stock exchange was the London Stock Exchange, which started in a London coffee shop in 1773.

Today, the leading stock exchanges include the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) and the Nasdaq. But unlike the original London Stock Exchange, they operate completely online.

To ensure fair trading, all US stock exchanges are regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), and other local regulatory bodies.

How Does the Stock Market Work?

Now that you know what the stock market is, here’s how it works:

First, the stock market acts as a primary market for companies to issue and sell shares of the company to the public. This is known as an initial public offering (IPO).

Advertisement - scroll to continue reading

Are you getting our free newsletter?

Subscribe to Scoop’s 'The Catch Up' our free weekly newsletter sent to your inbox every Monday with stories from across our network.

When a company decides it wants to raise capital from lay investors, it’ll “go public” by dividing itself into several shares and selling some of those shares on the stock market. Usually, this doesn’t happen until a company reaches a private valuation of about $1 billion, commonly known as “unicorn status.”

Investors who buy IPO shares expect the value of the stock to go up or to earn dividends from the company or both.

Once an IPO is complete, owned stocks continue to be traded in a secondary market on the stock exchange. Here, buyers offer bids on stocks, and sellers set asking prices. The difference between the two is known as the bid-ask spread. If a buyer and seller agree on a price, then a trade can occur. The stock exchange also charges a small fee for each successful trade.

Ultimately, stock prices are governed by supply and demand. The higher traders value a company and the fewer shares it has to offer, the higher the price will be. The beauty of the stock market is that it provides greater price transparency, liquidity, and price discovery for all. The stock market lets anyone see current stock valuations, buy and sell stock as they please, and trade at fair market value prices.

This is important since stock values can be extremely volatile. For example, news of a potential acquisition or a market downturn could impact public confidence in a company, causing its stock value to rise or fall.

How to Invest in the Stock Market

There are many ways to invest in the stock market. You can invest in individual stocks, mutual funds, index funds, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), and more.

Each of these will require you to work with a stockbroker, either a personal stockbroker authorized to execute orders on the stock market on your behalf or an online broker like Fidelity or Vanguard.

A stockbroker can help you make investment decisions with the help of stock market data APIs that send real-time stock information to their trading software.

Some investors take a long-term investing strategy while others prefer to day trade. If you want to take a passive investing approach geared toward retirement, it’s better to stay invested for a long time, diversify, and leverage dollar-cost averaging (DCA).

For example, you could invest in an index fund, which automatically follows a broad market index, such as the Standard and Poor's 500 (S&P 500) or the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA). This gives you broad diversification and doesn’t require any hands-on work. Plus, you’ll have extremely low management fees.

You can also choose to house your stock investments in a tax-advantaged retirement savings fund like a 401(k) or an individual retirement account (IRA). This way, you can minimize your tax burden in exchange for keeping your money invested until retirement age (at least 59½).

The sooner you start investing, the more you’ll gain through the power of compound interest in the long run. So, start investing in the stock market today! Your future self will thank you.

© Scoop Media

Advertisement - scroll to continue reading
Business Headlines | Sci-Tech Headlines


Join Our Free Newsletter

Subscribe to Scoop’s 'The Catch Up' our free weekly newsletter sent to your inbox every Monday with stories from across our network.