To many a metaphor for a semi-real place where fortunes are made and lost, Wall Street is actually a very real place with a very rich history. Among investors, “Wall Street” refers to the collective set of financial institutions in New York City including stock exchanges, banks, brokerages, commodity markets, money markets, hedge funds, etc. These institutions buy and sell securities in capital markets. Securities are contracts, to borrow money or fund a company for a stake in its ownership for example, that can be traded at a price. Capital markets are the markets, like stock exchanges, where these securities are traded. Generally, companies need money to produce what they sell and investors have this money. Securities are instruments which get this money from investors to companies efficiently.
Specifically, Wall Street is the actual street in Manhattan where the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) building is located and refers to the NYSE in particular. Wall Street was named after an actual wall built from the Hudson River to the East River across lower Manhattan, to protect the Dutch traders who used Manhattan as a shipping port from Indians. In 1685, Wall Street was laid out along this twelve-foot high stockade.
The NYSE traces its origins to an agreement signed between twenty-four prominent New York bankers on Wall Street in 1792. This agreement was called the Buttonwood Agreement and to this day “Buttonwood” is a buzzword for American finance. In 1817, the New York Stock and Exchange Board (NYS&EB) was created, changing its name in 1863 to the NYSE. During the 1800s, securities traded by the NYS&EB / NYSE financed prominent investment projects such as the Erie C...
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...ut many of the same debates about the market from the 1920s are often repeated, such as, “Can the market continue to go up?” “Are stocks overvalued?” etc. We may never fully understand the Wall Street, but that surely will not keep Americans from investing in it.
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