Organized market for the sale and purchase of securities (see security) such as stocks and bonds. Trading is done in various ways: it may occur on a continuous auction basis, it may involve brokers buying from and selling to dealers in certain types of stock, or it may be conducted through specialists in a particular stock. Some stock exchanges, such as the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), sell seats (the right to trade) to a limited number of members who must meet eligibility requirements. Stocks must likewise meet and maintain certain requirements or risk being delisted. Stock exchanges differ from country to country in eligibility requirements and in the degree to which the government participates in their management. The London Stock Exchange, for example, is an independent institution, free from government regulation. In Europe, members of the exchanges are often appointed by government officials and have semigovernmental status. In the U.S., stock exchanges are not directly run by the government but are regulated by law. Technological developments have greatly influenced the nature of trading. In a traditional full-service brokerage, a customer placed an order with a broker or member of a stock exchange, who in turn passed it on to a specialist on the floor of the exchange, who then concluded the transaction. By the 21st century, increased access to the Internet and the proliferation of electronic communications networks (ECNs) altered the investment world. Through e-trading, the customer enters an order directly on-line, and software automatically matches orders to achieve the best price available without the intervention of specialists or market makers. In effect, the ECN is a stock exchange for off-the-floor trading.
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