Contractual agreement entitling the holder to buy or sell a share of stock at a designated price for a specified period of time, regardless of changes in its market price during that period. The various kinds of stock options include put and call options, which may be purchased in anticipation of changes in stock prices, as a means of speculation or hedging. A put gives its holder an option to sell, or put, shares to another party at a fixed price even if the market price declines. A call gives the holder an option to buy, or call for, shares at a fixed price even if the market price rises. U.S. corporations often issue stock options to executives as a form of compensation in addition to salary, on the theory that an option is an incentive to improve the company's business and thus raise the value of its stock; at times such options have been far more valuable than the salary itself.
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Form of automobile racing. Popular in the U.S., it features cars that conform externally to standard U.S. commercial models and are raced usually on oval, paved tracks. The National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR), founded in 1947 in Daytona Beach, Fla., gave the sport its first formal organization. The Daytona 500 is the sport's premier race.
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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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In finance, the subscribed capital of a corporation or limited-liability company, usually divided into shares and represented by transferable certificates. Many companies have only one class of stock, called common stock. Common stock, as a share of ownership in the company, enh1s the holder to an interest in the company's earnings and assets. It carries voting rights that enable the holder to participate in the running of the company (unless such rights are specifically withheld, as in special classes of nonvoting shares). Dividends paid on common stock are often unstable because they vary with earnings; they are also usually less than earnings, the difference being used by the management to expand the firm. To appeal to investors who want to be sure of receiving dividends regularly, some companies issue preferred stock, which has a prior claim to dividends paid by the company and, in most cases, to the company's assets in case of its dissolution. Preferred-stock dividends are usually set at a fixed annual rate that must be paid before dividends are distributed to common stockholders. Seealso security, stock exchange.
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Economic event in the U.S. that precipitated the Great Depression. The U.S. stock market expanded rapidly in the late 1920s and reached a peak in August 1929, when prices began to decline while speculation increased. On October 18 the stock market began to fall precipitously. On the first day of real panic, October 24, known as “Black Thursday,” a record 12,894,650 shares were traded. Banks and investment companies bought large blocks of stock to stem the panic, but on October 29, “Black Tuesday,” 16 million shares were traded and prices collapsed. The crash began a 10-year economic slump that affected all the Western industrialized countries.
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