Secondary markets are where investors buy and sell securities they already own. They are what most people typically think of as the stock market, though stocks are also sold on the primary market when they are first issued. The national exchanges, such as the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) and the NASDAQ, are secondary markets.
The term secondary market is also used to refer to the market for any used goods or assets, or an alternative use for an existing product or asset where the customer base is the second market (for example, corn has been traditionally used primarily for food production and feedstock, but a second or third market has developed for use in ethanol production).
Fundamentally, secondary markets mesh the investor’s preference for liquidity (i.e., the investor’s desire not to tie up his or her money for a long period of time, in case the investor needs it to deal with unforeseen circumstances) with the capital user’s preference to be able to use the capital for an extended period of time.
Accurate share price allocates scarce capital more efficiently when new projects are financed through a new primary market offering, but accuracy may also matter in the secondary market because:
a) price accuracy can reduce the agency costs of management, and make hostile takeover a less risky proposition and thus move capital into the hands of better managers; and
b) accurate share price aids the efficient allocation of debt finance whether debt offerings or institutional borrowing.
Though stocks are one of the most commonly traded securities, there are also other types of secondary markets. For example, investment banks and corporate and individual investors buy and sell mutual funds and bonds on secondary markets. Entities such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac also purchase mortgages on a secondary market.
Transactions that occur on the secondary market are termed secondary simply because they are one step removed from the transaction that originally created the securities in question. For example, a financial institution writes a mortgage for a consumer, creating the mortgage security. The bank can then sell it to Fannie Mae on the secondary market in a secondary transaction.
– In secondary markets, investors exchange with each other rather than with the issuing entity.
– Through massive series of independent yet interconnected trades, the secondary market drives the price of securities toward their actual value.
Primary vs. Secondary Markets
It is important to understand the distinction between the secondary market and the primary market. When a company issues stock or bonds for the first time and sells those securities directly to investors, that transaction occurs on the primary market. Some of the most common and well-publicized primary market transactions are IPOs, or initial public offerings. During an IPO, a primary market transaction occurs between the purchasing investor and the investment bank underwriting the IPO. Any proceeds from the sale of shares of stock on the primary market go to the company that issued the stock, after accounting for the bank’s administrative fees.
If these initial investors later decide to sell their stake in the company, they can do so on the secondary market. Any transactions on the secondary market occur between investors, and the proceeds of each sale go to the selling investor, not to the company that issued the stock or to the underwriting bank.
Secondary Market Pricing
Primary market prices are often set beforehand, while prices in the secondary market are determined by the basic forces of supply and demand. If the majority of investors believe a stock will increase in value and rush to buy it, the stock’s price will typically rise. If a company loses favor with investors or fails to post sufficient earnings, its stock price declines as demand for that security dwindles.
The number of secondary markets that exists is always increasing as new financial products become available. In the case of assets such as mortgages, several secondary markets may exist. Bundles of mortgages are often repackaged into securities such as GNMA pools and resold to investors.
Private Secondary Markets
Private equity secondary market refers to the buying and selling of pre-existing investor commitments to private equity funds. Sellers of private equity investments sell not only the investments in the fund, but also their remaining unfunded commitments to the funds.
Due to the increased compliance and reporting obligations enacted in the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, private secondary markets began to emerge, such as SecondMarket and SecondaryLink. These markets are generally only available to institutional or accredited investors, and allow trading of unregistered and private company securities.
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