Business Finance

Understanding the New York Stock Exchange

Written by Bennet Grill for Gaebler Ventures

The New York Stock Exchange is the oldest and largest stock exchange in American history. This article explains how the New York Stock Exchange came into its current form and the role it plays in financial markets.

On May 17, 1792, stock brokers met under a buttonwood tree on Wall Street and signed an agreement regarding the trading of securities--this Buttonwood Agreement became the foundation for the modern day New York Stock Exchange.

With over 2,200 companies listed with an aggregate market value of $15.7 trillion, it the largest single stock exchange in the world. Most notable about the New York Stock Exchange is its physical trading floor, the bustling exchange often featured on television as the center of Wall Street.

Before the Buttonwood Agreement, which was only an agreement between 24 stockbrokers to trade securities, there was not a centralized American organization for the buying and selling of stock certificates. Twenty five years later, a constitution was drafted and the "New York Stock & Exchange Board" was born. In 1863, the exchange moved to its current headquarters of 18 Broad Street (the staple Parthenon styled building is located at 11 Wall Street,) and in 1865 the exchange's name was shortened to it current title, the "New York Stock Exchange."

The area of downtown Manhattan where the New York Stock Exchange is located is home to multiple influential historical sites. Located on the other side of the intersection of Broad and Wall is Federal Hall, the first capitol of the United States in which George Washington took his oath of office. Across the street from the 11 Wall exchange building is 23 Wall, which served as the first headquarters for J.P. Morgan and Company.

Interestingly enough, until 2005, the New York Stock Exchange operated as a not-for-profit organization. In this year the NYSE acquired a competing for-profit exchange called Archipelago that resulted in the creation of the NYSE Group. Two years later, under the leadership of CEO John Thain, the NYSE Group acquired Euronext. The resulting company, NYSE Euronext, owns and operates the NYSE, Euronext, and NYSE Arca exchanges.

With the acquisition of Archipelago, (now NYSE Arca,) the NYSE gained an electronic exchange format. Although traders still execute transactions on the floor of the exchange, most sales occur over electronic networks. While not as famous as the Dow Jones Industrial Average or the NASDAQ Composite, the NYSE Composite is an index that includes all common stocks listed on the NYSE. Many "bluechip" companies such as Bank of America, Exxon, and Alcoa are listed on the NYSE.

The NYSE plays an integral role in the financial markets of the United States-- some of the largest and most influential corporations in the world are listed on this exchange and is an important entity for small business owners and entrepreneurs to understand.

Bennet Grill is a writer who has a passion for business and finance. He is currently an Economics major at Duke University in North Carolina.

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