Review of Stocks & Markets:
Review of Stocks & Markets
Before we look at the world of online trading, let's take a quick look at the basics of the stock market. If you've already read How Stocks and the Stock Market Work, you can go on to the next section.
A share of stock is basically a tiny piece of a corporation. Shareholders -- people who buy stock -- are investing in the future of a company for as long as they own their shares. The price of a share varies according to economic conditions, the performance of the company and investors' attitudes. The first time a company offers its stock for public sale is called an initial public offering (IPO), also known as "going public."
When a business makes a profit, it can share that money with its stockholders by issuing a dividend. A business can also save its profit or re-invest it by making improvements to the business or hiring new people. Stocks that issue frequent dividends are income stocks. Stocks in companies that re-invest their profits are growth stocks.
Brokers buy and sell stocks through an exchange, charging a commission to do so. A broker is simply a person who is licensed to trade stocks through the exchange. A broker can be on the trading floor or can make trades by phone or electronically.
An exchange is like a warehouse in which people buy and sell stocks. A person or computer must match each buy order to a sell order, and vice versa. Some exchanges work like auctions on an actual trading floor, and others match buyers to sellers electronically. Some examples of major stock exchanges are:
The New York Stock Exchange, which trades stocks auction-style on a trading floor
The NASDAQ, an electronic stock exchange
The Tokyo Stock Exchange, a Japanese stock exchange
Worldwide Stock Exchanges has a list of major exchanges. Over-the-counter (OTC) stocks are not listed on a major exchange, and you can look up information on them at the OTC Bulletin Board or PinkSheets.
When you buy and sell stocks online, you're using an online broker that largely takes the place of a human broker. You still use real money, but instead of talking to someone about investments, you decide which stocks to buy and sell, and you request your trades yourself. Some online brokerages offer advice from live brokers and broker-assisted trades as part of their service.