Stock market

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Once a Europe-wide market with agreed regulation is in place, competition will window out the winners and losers among the member- bourses, on the basis of services and cost, or of the rival charms of the immediacy and size of quote-driven trading set against the keener prices of order-driven trading. Not a cosy prospect; but if the ECs existing exchanges do not submit to such a European framework, other artists will step in to deny them the adventure.


Up to now, we have talked about the function of securities markets as trading markets, where one investor who wants to move out of a particular investment can easily sell to another investor who wishes to buy. We have not talked about another function of the securities markets, which is to raise new capital for corporationsand for the federal government and state and local governments.

When you buy shares of stock on one of the exchanges, you are not buying a new issue. In the case of an old established company, the stock may have been issued decades ago, and the company has no direct interest in your trade today, except to register the change in ownership on its books. You have taken over the investment from another investor, and you know that when you are ready to sell, another investor will buy it from you at some price.

New issues are different. You have probably noticed the advertisements in the newspaper financial pages for new issues of stocks or bondslarge advertising which, because of the very tight restrictions on advertising new issues, state virtually nothing except the name of the security, the quantity being offered, and the names of the firms which are underwriting the security or bringing it to market.

Sometimes there is only a single underwriter; more often, especially if the offering is a large one, many firms participate in the underwriting group. The underwriters plan and manage the offering. They negotiate with the offering company to arrive at a price arrangement which will be high enough to satisfy the company but low enough to bring in buyers. In the case of untested companies, the underwriters may work for a prearranged fee. In the case of established companies, the underwriters usually take on a risk function by actually buying the securities from the company at a certain price and reoffering them to the public at a slightly higher price; the difference, which is usually between 1% and 7%, is the underwriters profit. Usually the underwriters have very carefully sounded out the demand is disappointingor if the general market takes a turn for the worse while the offering is under waythe underwriters may be left with securities that cant be sold at the scheduled offering price. In this case the underwriting syndicate is dissolved and the underwriters sell the securities for whatever they can get, occasionally at a substantial loss.

The new issue process is critical for the economy. Its important that both old and new companies have the ability to raise additional capital to meet expanding business needs. For you, the individual investor, the area may be a dangerous one. If a privately owned company is going public for the fist time by offering securities in the public market, it is usually does so at a time when its earnings have been rising and everything looks particularly rosy. The offering also may come at a time when the general market is optimistic and prices are relatively high. Even experienced investors can have great difficulty in assessing the real value of a new offering under these conditions.

: 3/03/2010