Capital market

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Courtyard of the Amsterdam Stock Exchange (Beurs van Hendrick de Keyser in Dutch), the foremost centre of European capital markets in the 17th century. The Dutch were the first in history to use a fully-fledged capital market (including the bond market and stock market) to finance publicly traded companies. SA 3025-De binnenplaats van de Beurs van Hendrick de Keyser.jpg
Courtyard of the Amsterdam Stock Exchange (Beurs van Hendrick de Keyser in Dutch), the foremost centre of European capital markets in the 17th century. The Dutch were the first in history to use a fully-fledged capital market (including the bond market and stock market) to finance publicly traded companies.
The trading floor of the New York Stock Exchange, one of the largest secondary capital markets in the world. Most of the trades on the New York Stock Exchange are executed electronically, but its hybrid structure allows some trading to be done face to face on the floor. NYSE-floor.jpg
The trading floor of the New York Stock Exchange, one of the largest secondary capital markets in the world. Most of the trades on the New York Stock Exchange are executed electronically, but its hybrid structure allows some trading to be done face to face on the floor.

A capital market is a financial market in which long-term debt (over a year) or equity-backed securities are bought and sold. [6] Capital markets channel the wealth of savers to those who can put it to long-term productive use, such as companies or governments making long-term investments. [lower-alpha 1] Financial regulators like the Bank of England (BoE) and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) oversee capital markets to protect investors against fraud, among other duties.

Financial market generic term for all markets in which trading takes place with capital

A financial market is a market in which people trade financial securities and derivatives such as futures and options at low transaction costs. Securities include stocks and bonds, and precious metals.

Debt deferred payment, or series of payments, that is owed in the future

Debt is when something, usually money, is owed by one party, the borrower or debtor, to a second party, the lender or creditor. Debt is a deferred payment, or series of payments, that is owed in the future, which is what differentiates it from an immediate purchase. The debt may be owed by sovereign state or country, local government, company, or an individual. Commercial debt is generally subject to contractual terms regarding the amount and timing of repayments of principal and interest. Loans, bonds, notes, and mortgages are all types of debt. The term can also be used metaphorically to cover moral obligations and other interactions not based on economic value. For example, in Western cultures, a person who has been helped by a second person is sometimes said to owe a "debt of gratitude" to the second person.

Equity (finance) difference between the value of the assets/interest and the cost of the liabilities of something owned

In accounting, equity is the difference between the value of the assets and the value of the liabilities of something owned. It is governed by the following equation:


Modern capital markets are almost invariably hosted on computer-based electronic trading platforms; most can be accessed only by entities within the financial sector or the treasury departments of governments and corporations, but some can be accessed directly by the public. As an example, in the United States, any American citizen with an internet connection can create an account with TreasuryDirect and use it to buy bonds in the primary market, though sales to individuals form only a tiny fraction of the total volume of bonds sold. Various private companies provide browser-based platforms that allow individuals to buy shares and sometimes even bonds in the secondary markets. There are many thousands of such systems, most serving only small parts of the overall capital markets. Entities hosting the systems include stock exchanges, investment banks, and government departments. Physically, the systems are hosted all over the world, though they tend to be concentrated in financial centres like London, New York, and Hong Kong.

Electronic trading platform

An electronic trading platform, also known as an online trading platform, is a website or computer program used to trade financial assets via a network with a financial intermediary such as a stockbroker, investment bank, or broker-dealer, or directly with market makers or other participants. Financial products commonly traded include stocks, bonds, currency, exchange-traded funds, commodities, and derivatives. Such platforms allow transactions to be executed from any location and are in contrast to trading via open outcry. Electronic trading platforms can connect with an electronic communication network, stock exchange, alternative trading system, crossing network, dark pool or broker system.


TreasuryDirect is a website run by the Bureau of the Fiscal Service under the United States Department of the Treasury that allows US individual investors to purchase Treasury securities such as Treasury Bills directly from the U.S. government. Its website allows money to be deposited from and withdrawn to personal bank accounts, and allows rolling repurchase of securities as the currently held items mature.

Financial centre Locations which are centres of financial activity

A financial centre is defined by the IMF as encompassing: International Financial Centres (IFCs), such as New York City, London, and Tokyo; Regional Financial Centres (RFCs), such as Frankfurt, Chicago and Sydney; and Offshore Financial Centres (OFCs), such as Cayman Islands, Dublin, and Singapore.


A capital market can be either a primary market or a secondary market. In primary market, new stock or bond issues are sold to investors, often via a mechanism known as underwriting. The main entities seeking to raise long-term funds on the primary capital markets are governments (which may be municipal, local or national) and business enterprises (companies). Governments issue only bonds, whereas companies often issue both equity and bonds. The main entities purchasing the bonds or stock include pension funds, hedge funds, sovereign wealth funds, and less commonly wealthy individuals and investment banks trading on their own behalf. In the secondary market, existing securities are sold and bought among investors or traders, usually on an exchange, over-the-counter, or elsewhere. The existence of secondary markets increases the willingness of investors in primary markets, as they know they are likely to be able to swiftly cash out their investments if the need arises. [7]

The primary market is the part of the capital market that deals with the issuance and sale of equity-backed securities to investors directly by the issuer. Investor buy securities that were never traded before. Primary markets create long term instruments through which corporate entities raise funds from the capital market. It is also known as the New Issue Market (NIM).

Secondary market company

The secondary market, also called the aftermarket and follow on public offering is the financial market in which previously issued financial instruments such as stock, bonds, options, and futures are bought and sold. Another frequent usage of "secondary market" is to refer to loans which are sold by a mortgage bank to investors such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Underwriting services are provided by some large financial institutions, such as banks, or insurance or investment houses, whereby they guarantee payment in case of damage or financial loss and accept the financial risk for liability arising from such guarantee. An underwriting arrangement may be created in a number of situations including insurance, issue of securities in a public offering, and bank lending, among others. The person or institution that agrees to sell a minimum number of securities of the company for commission is called the underwriter.

A second important division falls between the stock markets (for equity securities, also known as shares, where investors acquire ownership of companies) and the bond markets (where investors become creditors). [7]

Stock market public entity for the trading of company stocks and shares

A stock market, equity market or share market is the aggregation of buyers and sellers of stocks, 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. Examples of the latter include shares of private companies which are sold to investors through equity crowdfunding platforms. Stock exchanges list shares of common equity as well as other security types, e.g. corporate bonds and convertible bonds.

Bond market financial market where participants can issue new debt or buy and sell debt securities

The bond market is a financial market where participants can issue new debt, known as the primary market, or buy and sell debt securities, known as the secondary market. This is usually in the form of bonds, but it may include notes, bills, and so on.

Versus money markets

The money markets are used for the raising of short-term finance, sometimes for loans that are expected to be paid back as early as overnight. In contrast, the "capital markets" are used for the raising of long-term finance, such as the purchase of shares/equities, or for loans that are not expected to be fully paid back for at least a year. [6]

Money market type of financial market

As money became a commodity, the money market became a component of the financial market for assets involved in short-term borrowing, lending, buying and selling with original maturities of one year or less. Trading in money markets is done over the counter and is wholesale.

Funds borrowed from money markets are typically used for general operating expenses, to provide liquid assets for brief periods. For example, a company may have inbound payments from customers that have not yet cleared, but need immediate cash to pay its employees. When a company borrows from the primary capital markets, often the purpose is to invest in additional physical capital goods, which will be used to help increase its income. It can take many months or years before the investment generates sufficient return to pay back its cost, and hence the finance is long term. [7]

A capital good is a durable good that is used in the production of goods or services. Capital goods are one of the three types of producer goods, the other two being land and labour. The three are also known collectively as "primary factors of production"

Together, money markets and capital markets form the financial markets, as the term is narrowly understood. [lower-alpha 2] The capital market is concerned with long-term finance. In the widest sense, it consists of a series of channels through which the savings of the community are made available for industrial and commercial enterprises and public authorities.

Versus bank loans

Regular bank lending is not usually classed as a capital market transaction, even when loans are extended for a period longer than a year. First, regular bank loans are not securitized (i.e. they do not take the form of a resaleable security like a share or bond that can be traded on the markets). Second, lending from banks is more heavily regulated than capital market lending. Third, bank depositors tend to be more risk-averse than capital market investors. These three differences all act to limit institutional lending as a source of finance. Two additional differences, this time favoring lending by banks, are that banks are more accessible for small and medium-sized companies, and that they have the ability to create money as they lend. In the 20th century, most company finance apart from share issues was raised by bank loans. But since about 1980 there has been an ongoing trend for disintermediation, where large and creditworthy companies have found they effectively have to pay out less interest if they borrow directly from capital markets rather than from banks. The tendency for companies to borrow from capital markets instead of banks has been especially strong in the United States. According to the Financial Times , capital markets overtook bank lending as the leading source of long-term finance in 2009, which reflects the risk aversion and bank regulation in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. [8]

Compared to in the United States, companies in the European Union have a greater reliance on bank lending for funding. Efforts to enable companies to raise more funding through capital markets are being coordinated through the EU's Capital Markets Union initiative. [9] [10] [11] [12]


Government on primary markets

One Churchill Place, Barclays headquarters in Canary Wharf, London. Barclays is a major player in the world's primary and secondary bond markets. Barclays HQ.jpg
One Churchill Place, Barclays headquarters in Canary Wharf, London. Barclays is a major player in the world's primary and secondary bond markets.

When a government wants to raise long-term finance it will often sell bonds in the capital markets. In the 20th and early 21st centuries, many governments would use investment banks to organize the sale of their bonds. The leading bank would underwrite the bonds, and would often head up a syndicate of brokers, some of whom might be based in other investment banks. The syndicate would then sell to various investors. For developing countries, a multilateral development bank would sometimes provide an additional layer of underwriting, resulting in risk being shared between the investment bank(s), the multilateral organization, and the end investors. However, since 1997 it has been increasingly common for governments of the larger nations to bypass investment banks by making their bonds directly available for purchase online. Many governments now sell most of their bonds by computerized auction. Typically, large volumes are put up for sale in one go; a government may only hold a small number of auctions each year. Some governments will also sell a continuous stream of bonds through other channels. The biggest single seller of debt is the U.S. government; there are usually several transactions for such sales every second, [lower-alpha 3] which corresponds to the continuous updating of the U.S. real-time debt clock. [13] [14] [15]

Company on primary markets

When a company wants to raise money for long-term investment, one of its first decisions is whether to do so by issuing bonds or shares. If it chooses shares, it avoids increasing its debt, and in some cases the new shareholders may also provide non-monetary help, such as expertise or useful contacts. On the other hand, a new issue of shares will dilute the ownership rights of the existing shareholders, and if they gain a controlling interest, the new shareholders may even replace senior managers. From an investor's point of view, shares offer the potential for higher returns and capital gains if the company does well. Conversely, bonds are safer if the company does poorly, as they are less prone to severe falls in price, and in the event of bankruptcy, bond owners may be paid something, while shareholders will receive nothing.

When a company raises finance from the primary market, the process is more likely to involve face-to-face meetings than other capital market transactions. Whether they choose to issue bonds or shares, [lower-alpha 4] companies will typically enlist the services of an investment bank to mediate between themselves and the market. A team from the investment bank often meets with the company's senior managers to ensure their plans are sound. The bank then acts as an underwriter, and will arrange for a network of brokers to sell the bonds or shares to investors. This second stage is usually done mostly through computerized systems, though brokers will often phone up their favored clients to advise them of the opportunity. Companies can avoid paying fees to investment banks by using a direct public offering, though this is not a common practice as it incurs other legal costs and can take up considerable management time. [13] [16]

Secondary market trading

An electronic trading platform being used at the Deutsche Borse. Most 21st century capital market transactions are executed electronically; sometimes a human operator is involved, and sometimes unattended computer systems execute the transactions, as happens in algorithmic trading. Deutsche-boerse-parkett-ffm008.jpg
An electronic trading platform being used at the Deutsche Börse. Most 21st century capital market transactions are executed electronically; sometimes a human operator is involved, and sometimes unattended computer systems execute the transactions, as happens in algorithmic trading.

Most capital market transactions take place on the secondary market. On the primary market, each security can be sold only once, and the process to create batches of new shares or bonds is often lengthy due to regulatory requirements. On the secondary markets, there is no limit to the number of times a security can be traded, and the process is usually very quick. With the rise of strategies such as high-frequency trading, a single security could in theory be traded thousands of times within a single hour. [lower-alpha 5] Transactions on the secondary market do not directly raise finance, but they do make it easier for companies and governments to raise finance on the primary market, as investors know that if they want to get their money back quickly, they will usually be easily able to re-sell their securities. Sometimes, however, secondary capital market transactions can have a negative effect on the primary borrowers: for example, if a large proportion of investors try to sell their bonds, this can push up the yields for future issues from the same entity. An extreme example occurred shortly after Bill Clinton began his first term as President of the United States; Clinton was forced to abandon some of the spending increases he had promised in his election campaign due to pressure from the bond markets. In the 21st century, several governments have tried to lock in as much as possible of their borrowing into long-dated bonds, so they are less vulnerable to pressure from the markets. Following the financial crisis of 2007–08, the introduction of quantitative easing further reduced the ability of private actors to push up the yields of government bonds, at least for countries with a central bank able to engage in substantial open market operations. [13] [15] [16] [17]

A variety of different players are active in the secondary markets. Individual investors account for a small proportion of trading, though their share has slightly increased; in the 20th century it was mostly only a few wealthy individuals who could afford an account with a broker, but accounts are now much cheaper and accessible over the internet. There are now numerous small traders who can buy and sell on the secondary markets using platforms provided by brokers which are accessible via web browsers. When such an individual trades on the capital markets, it will often involve a two-stage transaction. First they place an order with their broker, then the broker executes the trade. If the trade can be done on an exchange, the process will often be fully automated. If a dealer needs to manually intervene, this will often mean a larger fee. Traders in investment banks will often make deals on their bank's behalf, as well as executing trades for their clients. Investment banks will often have a division (or department) called "capital markets": staff in this division try to keep aware of the various opportunities in both the primary and secondary markets, and will advise major clients accordingly. Pension and sovereign wealth funds tend to have the largest holdings, though they tend to buy only the highest grade (safest) types of bonds and shares, and some of them do not trade all that frequently. According to a 2012 Financial Times article, hedge funds are increasingly making most of the short-term trades in large sections of the capital market (like the UK and US stock exchanges), which is making it harder for them to maintain their historically high returns, as they are increasingly finding themselves trading with each other rather than with less sophisticated investors. [13] [15] [16] [18]

There are several ways to invest in the secondary market without directly buying shares or bonds. A common method is to invest in mutual funds [lower-alpha 6] or exchange-traded funds. It is also possible to buy and sell derivatives that are based on the secondary market; one of the most common type of these is contracts for difference – these can provide rapid profits, but can also cause buyers to lose more money than they originally invested. [13]


All figures given are in billions of US$ and are sourced to the IMF. There is no universally recognized standard for measuring all of these figures, so other estimates may vary. A GDP column is included as a comparison.

Year [19] StocksBondsBank assets [20] Total of stocks,
bonds and
bank assets [21]
World GDP
2013 [22] 62,552.0099,788.80120,421.60282,762.4074,699.30
2012 [23] 52,494.9099,134.20116,956.10268,585.2072,216.40
2011 [24] 47,089.2398,388.10110,378.24255,855.5769,899.22

Forecasting and analyses

A great deal of work goes into analysing capital markets and predicting their future movements. This includes academic study; work from within the financial industry for the purposes of making money and reducing risk; and work by governments and multilateral institutions for the purposes of regulation and understanding the impact of capital markets on the wider economy. Methods range from the gut instincts of experienced traders, to various forms of stochastic calculus and algorithms such as Stratonovich-Kalman-Bucy filtering algorithm. [25] [26]

Capital controls

Capital controls are measures imposed by a state's government aimed at managing capital account transactions – in other words, capital market transactions where one of the counter-parties [lower-alpha 7] involved is in a foreign country. Whereas domestic regulatory authorities try to ensure that capital market participants trade fairly with each other, and sometimes to ensure institutions like banks do not take excessive risks, capital controls aim to ensure that the macroeconomic effects of the capital markets do not have a negative impact. Most advanced nations like to use capital controls sparingly if at all, as in theory allowing markets freedom is a win-win situation for all involved: investors are free to seek maximum returns, and countries can benefit from investments that will develop their industry and infrastructure. However, sometimes capital market transactions can have a net negative effect: for example, in a financial crisis, there can be a mass withdrawal of capital, leaving a nation without sufficient foreign-exchange reserves to pay for needed imports. On the other hand, if too much capital is flowing into a country, it can increase inflation and the value of the nation's currency, making its exports uncompetitive. Countries like India employ capital controls to ensure that their citizens' money is invested at home rather than abroad. [27]

See also


  1. The idea of governments making investments may be less familiar than the case involving companies. A government can make investments that are expected to develop a nation's economy, by improving a nation's physical infrastructure, such as by building roads, or by improving public education.
  2. Note however that the term "financial markets" is also often used to refer all the different sorts of markets in the financial sector, including those that are not directly concerned with raising finance, such as commodity markets and foreign exchange.
  3. Even if there is no activity from big players, U.S. citizens might be making small investments through channels like Treasury Direct.
  4. Sometimes the company will consult with the investment bank for advice before they make this decision.
  5. This is far more likely to occur with shares, as exchanges that allow the automated trading of bonds are not as common, and bonds are generally traded less frequently.
  6. A mutual fund itself will sometimes purchase securities from the primary markets as well as the secondary.
  7. i.e., either the buyer or the seller.

Related Research Articles

Security (finance) tradable financial asset

A security is a tradable financial asset. The term commonly refers to any form of financial instrument, but its legal definition varies by jurisdiction. In some jurisdictions the term specifically excludes financial instruments other than equities and fixed income instruments. In some jurisdictions it includes some instruments that are close to equities and fixed income, e.g., equity warrants. In some countries and languages the term "security" is commonly used in day-to-day parlance to mean any form of financial instrument, even though the underlying legal and regulatory regime may not have such a broad definition.

Bond (finance) instrument of indebtedness

In finance, a bond is an instrument of indebtedness of the bond issuer to the holders. The most common types of bonds include municipal bonds and corporate bonds.

An investment bank is a financial services company or corporate division that engages in advisory-based financial transactions on behalf of individuals, corporations, and governments. Traditionally associated with corporate finance, such a bank might assist in raising financial capital by underwriting or acting as the client's agent in the issuance of securities. An investment bank may also assist companies involved in mergers and acquisitions (M&A) and provide ancillary services such as market making, trading of derivatives and equity securities, and FICC services. Most investment banks maintain prime brokerage and asset management departments in conjunction with their investment research businesses. As an industry, it is broken up into the Bulge Bracket, Middle Market, and boutique market.

A mutual fund is a professionally managed investment fund that pools money from many investors to purchase securities. These investors may be retail or institutional in nature.

In financial services, a broker-dealer is a natural person, company or other organization that engages in the business of trading securities for its own account or on behalf of its customers. Broker-dealers are at the heart of the securities and derivatives trading process.

Financial services economic service provided by the finance industry

Financial services are the economic services provided by the finance industry, which encompasses a broad range of businesses that manage money, including credit unions, banks, credit-card companies, insurance companies, accountancy companies, consumer-finance companies, stock brokerages, investment funds, individual managers and some government-sponsored enterprises. Financial services companies are present in all economically developed geographic locations and tend to cluster in local, national, regional and international financial centers such as London, New York City, and Tokyo.

A 'financial system' is a system that allows the exchange of funds between lenders, investors, and borrowers. Financial systems operate at national and global levels. They consist of complex, closely related services, markets, and institutions intended to provide an efficient and regular linkage between investors and depositors.

Syndicated loan

A syndicated loan is one that is provided by a group of lenders and is structured, arranged, and administered by one or several commercial banks or investment banks known as lead arrangers.

Securities market securities market

Securities market is a component of the wider financial market where securities can be bought and sold between subjects of the economy, on the basis of demand and supply. Securities markets encompasses equity markets, bond markets and derivatives markets where prices can be determined and participants both professional and non professionals can meet.

In finance, securities lending or stock lending refers to the lending of securities by one party to another. The terms of the loan will be governed by a "Securities Lending Agreement", which requires that the borrower provides the lender with collateral, in the form of cash or non-cash securities, of value equal to or greater than the loaned securities plus agreed-upon margin. Non-cash refers to the subset of collateral that is not pure cash, including equities, government bonds, convertible bonds, corporate bonds, and other products. The agreement is a contract enforceable under relevant law, which is often specified in the agreement.

The Banja Luka Stock Exchange or BLSE is a stock exchange which operates in the city of Banja Luka in the Republika Srpska, Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Banja Luka Stock Exchange is a member of the Federation of Euro-Asian Stock Exchanges.

The Nepal Stock Exchange Limited is the only Stock Exchange of Nepal. It is located in Singha Durbar Plaza, Kathmandu, Nepal. On September 15, 2017 the equity market capitalization of the companies listed on NEPSE was approximately US$17.3 billion.

Financial market participants

There are two basic financial market participant categories, Investor vs. Speculator and Institutional vs. Retail. Action in financial markets by central banks is usually regarded as intervention rather than participation.

A non-banking financial institution (NBFI) or non-bank financial company (NBFC) is a financial institution that does not have a full banking license or is not supervised by a national or international banking regulatory agency. NBFI facilitate bank-related financial services, such as investment, risk pooling, contractual savings, and market brokering. Examples of these include insurance firms, pawn shops, cashier's check issuers, check cashing locations, payday lending, currency exchanges, and microloan organizations. Alan Greenspan has identified the role of NBFIs in strengthening an economy, as they provide "multiple alternatives to transform an economy's savings into capital investment which act as backup facilities should the primary form of intermediation fail."

Securities market participants (United States)

Securities market participants in the United States include corporations and governments issuing securities, persons and corporations buying and selling a security, the broker-dealers and exchanges which facilitate such trading, banks which safe keep assets, and regulators who monitor the markets' activities. Investors buy and sell through broker-dealers and have their assets retained by either their executing broker-dealer, a custodian bank or a prime broker. These transactions take place in the environment of equity and equity options exchanges, regulated by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), or derivative exchanges, regulated by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC). For transactions involving stocks and bonds, transfer agents assure that the ownership in each transaction is properly assigned to and held on behalf of each investor.


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  19. Refer to the references used for each year to find a breakdown of capital market size for individual countries and regions.
  20. Bank assets are mainly regular bank loans. The IMF reports used to source these figures do recognize the distinction between capital markets and regular bank lending, but bank assets are traditionally included in their tables on overall capital market size.
  21. The table may slightly overstate the total size of the capital markets, as in some cases the IMF data used to source the reports may double-count stocks and bonds as bank assets.
  22. IMF Global Financial Stability Report Oct 2014
  23. IMF Global Financial Stability Report Oct 2013
  24. IMF Global Financial Stability Report Oct 2012
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