Equities and futures markets exist globally with specific exchanges that enable investors to buy and sell multiple assets electronically.
Exchanges around the world offer different products but they all enable two key services: they provide a marketplace for traders to buy and sell assets, and they help to ensure that prices are fair by setting rules that govern trading activity.
Indexes are benchmarks that measure the performance of a group of assets. Many developed nations have market indexes tracking the performance of the largest companies in the country.
For example, the S&P 500 Index is a collection of 500 US stocks that are chosen by experts to represent the US stock market. The index is often used as a barometer for the US economy. Futures are contracts to buy or sell an asset at a future date.
For example, you might purchase a futures contract to buy gold in 3 months. If the price of gold goes up, you will make money on the trade. If the price of gold goes down, you will lose money.
Markets have defined business hours and days of operation. Market holidays are days when the markets are closed for trading. These holidays can vary by country and by the exchange. For example, the US stock market is closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Regulatory agencies oversee the fair and ethical operation of the markets and exchanges. These agencies work to ensure that prices are fair and transparent and that trading activity is conducted in an orderly manner.