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Eight facts that help make the stock market what it is today

Eight facts that help make the stock market what it is today

At a time when investors can buy and sell investments on their mobile phone in a spare five minutes at work, it is easy to forget that the practice of trading stocks, in various forms, has been around for many centuries. 

While the best online stock trading platforms today make for the seamless and swift exchange of stocks and investments, there is evidence that similar trades, albeit in far more simplistic terms, were being made as far back as the 14th century. Obviously much has changed in the year's since, allowing for a quick reflection on some of the more interesting facts associated with stock trading and its evolution. 

1. Oldest Stock Market
Although merchants of Venice, markets in India and other areas of the world had people selling, buying and trading loans and debt issues on the streets, the title of first stock trading market belongs to Amsterdam. In 1602, the Amsterdam Stock Exchange was started by the Dutch East India Company. It's now known as Euronext Amsterdam.

2. The Big Board
This is the nickname of the New York Stock Exchange. The NYSE is the biggest stock exchange in the world, and the largest in the United States, with the market having opened for the first time in 1792.

3. Ticker Tapes
Before it was possible to trade stocks online or see which stocks and securities were trading in real time on TV, your computer or smartphone, brokers relied on stock ticker tapes, which printed out stock price information that was transmitted over telegraph lines. The ticking sound as the paper printed is how it earned its name.

4. The Curb
The American Stock Exchange first started in New York in 1790, but it didn't earn its nickname of "The Curb" until the 19th century. Business was conducted in the streets of New York and those traders became known as "curbstone brokers."

5. The October Effect
Whether it's coincidence or not, investors and brokers tend to get nervous in October, as this is the month in which the worst stock market crashes have historically occurred.

Eight facts that help make the stock market what it is today

(Image credit: Getty)

On October 29, 1929, there was the first devastating US stock market crash of note, and one that would lead to the Great Depression of the 1930s, which would endure for a decade. With stocks plummeting 25% in the space of a few days, American investors were sent into panic. The cause lay with the London Stock Exchange crash that occurred the month before, and continued with a volatile market and the frantic selling of stocks. 

Over half a century later, on Monday, October 19, 1987, the world markets began crashing once again. By the end of the month, markets had slumped almost 46% in Hong Kong, more than 26% in the United Kingdom and nearly 23% in the US. Further October slides have been witnessed in 2002 and 2008 as well, leaving traders on edge whenever the month of September passes.  

6. Stock Market Movies
Given the potential for a heady mix of money and power, the stock market provides a good backdrop for dramas on the small and large screen. Indeed, Hollywood has produced numerous films about the exchange. Some of the movies are as flimsy as the film they were shot on, but a handful are worth a watch. The true life stories of fortunes and failures depicted in The Big Short, Too Big to Fail and The Wolf of Wall Street can provide some valuable lessons for us all.  

7. Opening Bell
Since 1903, the start of every day's trading session on the NYSE starts with the ringing of an actual bell at 9:30 a.m. Eastern Standard Time. Originally, the signal was a gavel, and then a gong. Many high-profile people have been invited to participate in the tradition of ringing the opening bell, including heads of state, film stars and sports people. However, it is perhaps when the less well-known among us, such as firefighters and police officers, are afforded the opportunity to open the trading floors in recognition of some extraordinary deeds that they have accomplished, that we should look forward to the most. 

8. Blue Chips
This prestigious nickname is reserved for companies that are nationally known and trade high on the stock market. The name is derived from the highest value poker chip, which is blue. Companies considered "blue chips" today include Microsoft, Amazon and Apple. If you'd been able to use the best online stock trading platforms to invest in any of these giants just a few years ago - or even better, when they were just starting out - you'd definitely be sitting pretty today. 

With over 20 years’ experience in the financial services industry, Tim has spent most of his career working for a financial data firm, where he was Online Editor of the consumer-facing Moneyfacts site, and regularly penned articles for the financial advice publication Investment Life and Pensions Moneyfacts. As a result, he has an excellent knowledge of almost areas of personal finance and, in particular, the retirement, investment, protection, mortgage and savings sectors.