1. Stock Market Trading Basics
There are two types of stocks traded in the stock market: equities and options. Equities are shares of ownership in a company. Options are contracts giving their owner the right, but not the obligation, to buy or sell a certain number of equities at a set price over a given period of time.
Trading in the stock market is done via the exchange. An exchange is where buyers and sellers meet to trade securities. There are three major exchanges in the United States: the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), NASDAQ, and the American Stock Exchange (AMEX).
The NYSE is the world’s largest stock exchange measured by total value of its listed companies. The AMEX is the second-largest exchange, while the NASDAQ is the third-largest.
A stockbroker is someone who facilitates trades between buyers and sellers. A broker may work for a bank, a brokerage firm, or some other financial institution. Brokers receive commissions for each trade they facilitate.
Stock prices are determined by supply and demand. When there is a high demand for a particular security, the price goes up. Conversely, if there is a low demand for a particular security and no one wants to buy them, the price drops.
2. How Does Trading Work?
When buying a stock, a buyer pays money to the seller. If the buyer does not want to purchase the entire amount of shares offered, he or she may pay for only a portion of the shares being sold. In this case, the buyer receives a contract called a “bid.” The bid states how many shares the buyer wishes to purchase. If the buyer decides to purchase less than what was contracted for, the buyer pays a premium for the difference.
If the buyer purchases more shares than what was contracted for in the bid, the buyer receives a discount. If the buyer buys more shares than what was originally contracted for, the buyer receives a rebate.
When selling a stock, a seller receives payment from the buyer. Again, the seller may accept partial payment. In this case, instead of receiving a bid, the seller receives an offer. The offer specifies how much the seller wishes to sell.
If the seller accepts the offer, the sale is complete. If the seller refuses the offer, the buyer must either increase his or her offer or find another buyer.
3. What Are Futures Contracts?
Futures contracts are agreements to buy or sell a specific quantity of a commodity at a specified future date. Futures contracts are standardized contracts. That means that everyone agrees to follow the same rules.
For example, let’s say I am interested in purchasing 100 pounds of pork bellies. I could go to my local grocery store and ask the butcher to sell me 100 pounds of pork bellied. However, I would have to wait until the pork bellied were ready to be purchased before I could make the purchase. Instead, I can enter into a futures contract with the grocery store.