Sunday, October 25, 2015

Frank's introduction to stock market terms

Stock market trading goes back over about two centuries. When telegraphy revolutionized long-distance communication in the 1840s and facilitated stock-market quotations, a new era began for traders, banks and brokerage firms as well as any business relying on their services. As always with novel, growing human activities, an insider language evolved. Today's stock market terminology is super-rich in trading-specific words and phrases [1-3].

Basic trading terms were used then as they are today. Frank Algernon Cowperwood in Theodore Dreiser's financial-world thriller The Financier, published in its first version in 1912,  learned the key terms of trading early along his career path leading to his life as a fiercely ambitious businessman. Even before the telegraph and telephone became commonplace, bears and bulls were fighting and struggling as they do in current markets.

Frank started out under the direction of Mr. Arthur Rivers, the regular floor man of Tighe & Company in Philadelphia. He soon learned that it is useless to try to figure out exactly why stocks rose and fell. Anything can make or break a market. To thrive in the exciting or traumatizing world of uncertainty and constant struggle required knowledge of how to word the flow of virtual money. Frank mastered the stock market lingo with ease [4]:  

Frank soon picked up all the technicalities of the situation. A “bull,” he learned, was one who bought in anticipation of a higher price to come; and if he was “loaded up” with a “line” of stocks he was said to be “long.” He sold to “realize” his profit, or if his margins were exhausted he was “wiped out.” A “bear” was one who sold stocks most frequently he did not have, in anticipation of a lower price, at which he could buy and satisfy his previous sales. He was “short” when he had sold what he did not own, and he “covered” when he bought to satisfy his sales and to realize his profits or to protect himself against further loss in case prices advance instead of declining. He was in a “corner” when he found that he could not buy in order to make good the stock he had borrowed for delivery and the return of which had been demanded. He was then obliged to settle practically at a price fixed by those to whom he and other “shorts” had sold.

The terms within quotes have been text-colored by the author of this post. These terms are mostly elementary words out of the basic English vocabulary that take on a different, context-specific meaning within the financial market domain. 

Keywords: literature, economy, financial world, investment terms, stock market vocabulary.

References and more to explore
[1] Nasdaq: Glossary of Stock Market Terms [].
[2] Value Stock Guide: Stock Market Terminology for Beginners [].
[3] Wise Stock Buyer: Stock Market Terminology [].
[4] Theodore Dreiser: The Financier. Penguin Books Ltd, London, England; Penguin Classics edition with an introduction by Larzer Ziff, 2008.

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