A Brief History Of The Stock Market

With the recent wild ebbs and flows of the stock market, perhaps a brief history of the stock market will put things in better perspective.

Historians disagree about when in the murky past a stock market was formed. It is suggested by the historian Fernand Braudel that Muslim and Jewish merchants had in effect set up everything that was needed to trade with credit in 11th Century Cairo. Was this trade the beginnings of present day stock markets? In the 12th Century the French regulated and traded debts of agricultural communities. Were these the first brokers?

While the beginnings of stock markets worldwide are shrouded in the fog of history, the history of the American stock markets and Wall Street are much clearer. Boston was the early financial center of America. Bonds and commodities were traded largely by Boston Dealers.

It was not until 1792 that Wall Street became the center of stock trade. It was there that the first organized United States stock exchange was created. Other countries such as England and France had long since established stock exchanges, but this first American stock exchange would grow to become the center of world stock trading.

The New York Stock Exchange was created under a buttonwood tree in what is now Battery Park by John Sutton, Benjamin Jay, and other financial leaders. In 1849 the American Stock Exchange was formed. This exchange was used for many years by companies that did not meet the listing requirements of the New York Stock Exchange.

The American Stock Exchange was purchased by the NASDAQ exchange in 1998. The NASDAQ, which stands for the National Association of Securities Dealers Automated Quotation, was founded in 1971. This electronic stock exchange is now the largest in the world in terms of shares traded.

The markets have had many ups and downs over the years. The most notable crash was the Great Stock Market Crash of 1929. Largely because of very high margin rates, the speculative market began a decline that would eventually lead the to the Great Depression.

The markets have also enjoyed boom times such as the technology bubble of the 1990’s. During the decade, it seemed as if every stock even loosely related to technology saw its price rise many fold. This bubble burst as all bubbles do. There then followed a period of correction which was itself followed by a more normal market.

As this brief history of the stock markets illustrates, the stock market serves as a pricing mechanism with many excesses. At certain times, there exists a buying fever. Prices rise far higher than they would in a more rational market.

At other times, when fear and uncertainty hold the markets in their twin grips, prices fall. Many bargains can be found by the speculator with patience and deep pockets.

A historical perspective of the stock market can help you avoid the pitfalls of extreme market conditions. Such a perspective can also allow you to take advantage of the opportunities these extreme conditions create. Study the history of the stock market and you can become a better investor.