A stock market, equity market or share market is the aggregation of buyers and sellers (a loose network of economic transactions, not a physical facility or discrete entity) of stocks (also called shares), which represent ownership claims on businesses; these may include securities listed on a public stock exchange, as well as stock that is only traded privately.
The stock (also capital stock) of a corporation is all of the shares into which ownership of the corporation is divided. In American English, the shares are commonly known as "stocks" which is a single share of the stock representing fractional ownership of the corporation in proportion to the total number of shares. This typically entitles the stockholder to that fraction of the company's earnings, proceeds from the liquidation of assets (after the discharge of all senior claims such as secured and unsecured debt), or voting power, often dividing these up in proportion to the amount of money each stockholder has invested. Not all stock is necessarily equal. Certain classes of stock may be issued for example without voting rights, with enhanced voting rights, or with a certain priority to receive profits or liquidation proceeds before or after other classes of shareholders.
Stock can be bought and sold privately or on stock exchanges, and such transactions are typically heavily regulated by governments to prevent fraud, protect investors, and benefit the larger economy. As new shares are issued by a company, the ownership and rights of existing shareholders are diluted in return for cash to sustain or grow the business. Companies can also buy back stock, which often lets investors recoup the initial investment plus capital gains from subsequent rises in stock price. Stock options, issued by many companies as part of employee compensation, do not represent ownership but represent the right to buy ownership at a future time at a specified price. This would represent a windfall to the employees if the option is exercised when the market price is higher than the promised price since if they immediately sold the stock they would keep the difference (minus taxes).
They can achieve these goals by selling shares in the company to the general public, through a sale on a stock exchange. This process is called an initial public offering, or IPO.
In finance, an electronic trading platform also known as an online trading platform is a computer software program that can be used to place orders for financial products over a network with a financial intermediary. Various financial products can be traded by the trading platform, over a communication network with a financial intermediary or directly between the participants or members of the trading platform. This includes products such as stocks, bonds, currencies, commodities, derivatives, and others, with a financial intermediary, such as brokers, market makers, Investment banks or stock exchanges. Such platforms allow electronic trading to be carried out by users from any location and are in contrast to traditional floor trading using open outcry and telephone-based trading. Sometimes the term trading platform is also used in reference to the trading software alone.
Electronic trading platforms typically stream live market prices on which users can trade and may provide additional trading tools, such as charting packages, news feeds, and account management functions. Some platforms have been specifically designed to allow individuals to gain access to financial markets that could formerly only be accessed by specialist trading firms. They may also be designed to automatically trade specific strategies based on technical analysis or to do high-frequency trading.
The first electronic trading platforms were typically associated with stock exchanges and allowed brokers to place orders remotely using private dedicated networks and dumb terminals. Early systems would not always provide live streaming prices and instead allowed brokers or clients to place an order which would be confirmed sometime later; these were known as 'request for quote' based systems.
Trading systems evolved to allow for live streaming prices and near-instant execution of orders as well as using the internet as the underlying network meaning that location became much less relevant. Some electronic trading platforms have built-in scripting tools and even APIs allowing traders to develop automatic or algorithmic trading systems and robots.
The client graphical user interface of the electronic trading platforms can be used to place various orders and are also sometimes called trading turrets (though this may be a misuse of the term, as some refer to the specialized PBX phones used by traders).