Glossary of Investment Terms
Keeping up with the increasing number of investment products and services in the marketplace today can be confusing. This glossary is designed to help you understand some of the more common investment and financial terms you may encounter. Your financial advisor can explain these terms more completely and discuss with you those relevant to your situation.
Accrued interest – The interest due on a bond since the last interest payment was made. The buyer of the bond pays the market price plus accrued interest.
Acquisition – The acquiring of control of one corporation by another. In “unfriendly” takeover attempts, the potential buying company may offer a price well above current market values, new securities and other inducements to stockholders. The management of the subject company might ask for a better price or try to join up with a third company. (See: Merger, Proxy)
American Depositary Receipt (ADR) – a security issued by a U.S. bank in place of the foreign shares held in trust by that bank, thereby facilitating the trading of foreign shares in U.S. markets.
American Stock Exchange (AMEX) – The second largest stock exchange in the United States, located in the financial district of New York City. (Formerly known as the Curb Exchange from its origin on a Manhattan street.)
Amortization – Accounting for expenses or charges as applicable rather than as paid. Includes such practices as depreciation, depletion, write-off of intangibles, prepaid expenses and deferred charges.
Annual report – The formal financial statement issued yearly by a corporation. The annual report shows assets, liabilities, revenues, expenses and earnings – how the company stood at the close of the business year, how it fared profit-wise during the year, as well as other information of interest to shareowners.
Arbitrage – A technique employed to take advantage of differences in price. If, for example, ABC stock can be bought in New York for $10 a share and sold in London at $10.50, an arbitrageur may simultaneously purchase ABC stock here and sell the same amount in London, making a profit of $.50 a share, less expenses. Arbitrage may also involve the purchase of rights to subscribe to a security, or the purchase of a convertible security – and the sale at or about the same time of the security obtainable through exercise of the rights or of the security obtainable through conversion. (See: Convertible, Rights)
Assets – Everything a corporation owns or that is due to it: cash, investments, money due it, materials and inventories, which are called current assets; buildings and machinery, which are known as fixed assets; and patents and goodwill, called intangible assets. (See: Liabilities)
Auction market – The system of trading securities through brokers or agents on an exchange such as the New York Stock Exchange. Buyers compete with other buyers while sellers compete with other sellers for the most advantageous price.
Auditor’s report – Often called the accountant’s opinion, it is the statement of the accounting firm’s work and its opinion of the corporation’s financial statements, especially if they conform to the normal and generally accepted practices of accountancy.
Averages – Various ways of measuring the trend of securities prices, one of the most popular of which is the Dow Jones Industrial Average of 30 industrial stocks listed on the New York Stock Exchange. The prices of the 30 stocks are totaled and then divided by a divisor that is intended to compensate for past stock splits and stock dividends, and that is changed from time to time. As a result, point changes in the average have only the vaguest relationship to dollar-price changes in stocks included in the average. (See: NYSE Composite Index)
Averaging – (See: Dollar-cost-averaging)
Balance sheet – A condensed financial statement showing the nature and amount of a company’s assets, liabilities and capital on a given date. In dollar amounts, the balance sheet shows what the company owned, what it owed and the ownership interest in the company of its stockholders. (See: Assets, Earnings report)
Basis point – One gradation on a 100-point scale representing 1%; used especially in expressing variations in the yields of bonds. Fixed income yields vary often and slightly within one percent and the basis point scale easily expresses these changes in hundredths of 1%. For example, the difference between 12.83% and 12.88% is 5 basis points.
Bear – Someone who believes the market will decline. (See: Bull)
Bear market – A declining market. (See: Bull market)
Bid and Asked – Often referred to as a quotation or quote. The bid is the highest price anyone wants to pay for a security at a given time, the asked is the lowest price anyone will take at the same time. (See: Quote)
Block – A large holding or transaction of stock – popularly considered to be 10,000 shares or more.
Blue chip – A company known nationally for the quality and wide acceptance of its products or services, and for its ability to make money and pay dividends.
Blue Sky Laws – A popular name for laws various states have enacted to protect the public against securities frauds. The term is believed to have originated when a judge ruled that a particular stock had about the same value as a patch of blue sky.
Bond – Basically an IOU or promissory note of a corporation, usually issued in multiples of $1,000 or $5,000, although $100 and $500 denominations are not unknown. A bond is evidence of a debt on which the issuing company usually promises to pay the bondholders a specified amount of interest for a specified length of time, and to repay the loan on the expiration date. In every case a bond represents debt – its holder is a creditor of the corporation and not a part owner, as is the shareholder. (See: Collateral, Convertible, Debenture, General mortgage bond, Income bond)
Book value – An accounting term. Book value of a stock is determined from a company’s records, by adding all assets then deducting all debts and other liabilities, plus the liquidation price of any preferred issues. The sum arrived at is divided by the number of common shares outstanding and the result is book value per common share. Book value of the assets of a company or a security may have little relationship to market value.
Brokers’ loans – Money borrowed by brokers from banks or other brokers for a variety of uses. It may be used by specialists to help finance inventories of stock they deal in; by brokerage firms to finance the underwriting of new issues of corporate and municipal securities; to help finance a firm’s own investments; and to help finance the purchase of securities for customers who prefer to use the broker’s credit when they buy securities. (See: Margin)
Bull – One who believes the market will rise. (See: Bear)
Bull market – An advancing market. (See: Bear market)
Buy side – The portion of the securities business in which institutional orders originate.
Callable – A bond issue, all or part of which may be redeemed by the issuing corporation under specified conditions before maturity. The term also applies to preferred shares that may be redeemed by the issuing corporation.
Capital gain or capital loss – Profit or loss from the sale of a capital asset. The capital gains provisions of the tax law are complicated. You should consult your tax advisor for specific information.
Capitalization – Total amount of the various securities issued by a corporation. Capitalization may include bonds, debentures, preferred and common stock, and surplus. Bonds and debentures are usually carried on the books of the issuing company in terms of their par or face value. Preferred and common shares may be carried in terms of par or stated value. Stated value may be an arbitrary figure decided upon by the director or may represent the amount received by the company from the sale of the securities at the time of issuance. (See: Par)
Cash flow – Reported net income of a corporation plus amounts charged off for depreciation, depletion, amortization, and extraordinary charges to reserves, which are bookkeeping deductions and not paid out in actual dollars and cents. (See: Amortization, Depreciation)
Cash sale – A transaction on the floor of the stock exchange that calls for delivery of the securities the same day. In “regular way” trade, the seller is to deliver on the third business day, except for bonds, which are the next day. (See: Regular way delivery)
Certificate – The actual piece of paper that is evidence of ownership of stock in a corporation. Watermarked paper is finely engraved with delicate etchings to discourage forgery.
Certificate of deposit (CD) – A money market instrument characterized by its set date of maturity and interest rate. There are two basic types of CDs: traditional and negotiable. Traditional bank CDs typically incur an early-withdrawal penalty, while negotiable CDs have secondary market liquidity with investors receiving more or less than the original amount depending on market conditions.
The Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) – Created by Congress in 1974 to regulate exchange trading in futures.
Commission – The broker’s basic fee for purchasing or selling securities or property as an agent.
Common stock – Securities that represent an ownership interest in a corporation. If the company has also issued preferred stock, both common and preferred have ownership rights. Common stockholders assume the greater risk, but generally exercise the greater control and may gain the greater award in the form of dividends and capital appreciation. The terms common stock and capital stock are often used interchangeably when the company has no preferred stock.
Competitive trader – A member of the exchange who trades in stocks on the floor for an account in which there is an interest. Also known as a registered trader.
Conglomerate – A corporation that has diversified its operations usually by acquiring enterprises in widely varied industries.
Consolidated balance sheet – A balance sheet showing the financial condition of a corporation and its subsidiaries. (See: Balance sheet)
Consolidated tape – The ticker tape reporting transactions in NYSE-listed securities that take place on the NYSE or any of the participating regional stock exchanges and other markets. Similarly, transactions in AMEX-listed securities, and certain other securities listed on regional stock exchanges, are reported on a separate tape.
Correspondent – A securities firm, bank or other financial organization that regularly performs services for another in a place or market to which the other does not have direct access. Securities firms may have correspondents in foreign countries or on exchanges of which they are not members. Correspondents are frequently linked by private wires. Member organizations of the NYSE with offices in New York may also act as correspondents for out-of-town member organizations that do not maintain New York offices.
Cumulative voting – A method of voting for corporate directors that enables the shareholders to multiply the number of their shares by the number of directorships being voted on and to cast the total for one director or a selected group of directors. A 10-share holder normally casts 10 votes for each of, say, 12 nominees to the board of directors. One thus has 120 votes. Under the cumulative voting principle, one may do that or may cast 120 (10 x 12) votes for only one nominee, 60 for two, 40 for three, or any other distribution one chooses. Cumulative voting is required under the corporate laws of some states and is permitted in most others.
Current assets – Those assets of a company that are reasonably expected to be realized in cash, sold or consumed during one year. These include cash, U.S. Government bonds, receivables and money due usually within one year, as well as inventories.
Current liabilities – Money owed and payable by a company, usually within one year.
Current return – (See: Yield)
Day order – An order to buy or sell that, if not executed, expires at the end of trading day on which it was entered.
Dealer – An individual or firm in the securities business who buys and sells stocks and bonds as a principal rather than as an agent. The dealer’s profit or loss is the difference between the price paid and the price received for the same security. The dealer’s confirmation must disclose to the customer that the principal has been acted upon. The same individual or firm may function, at different times, either as a broker or dealer. (See: FINRA, Specialist)
Debenture – A promissory note backed by the general credit of a company and usually not secured by a mortgage or lien on any specific property. (See: Bond)
Debit balance – In a customer’s margin account, that portion of the purchase price of stock, bonds or commodities that is covered by credit extended by the broker to the margin customer. (See: Margin)
Delayed opening – The postponement of trading of an issue on a stock exchange beyond the normal opening of a day’s trading because of market conditions that have been judged by exchange officials to warrant such a delay. Reasons for the delay might be an influx of either buy or sell orders, an imbalance of buyers and sellers, or pending corporate news that requires time for dissemination.
Depletion accounting – Natural resources, such as metals, oil, gas and timber, that conceivably can be reduced to zero over the years, present a special problem in capital management. Depletion is an accounting practice consisting of charges against earnings based upon the amount of the asset taken out of the total reserves in the period for which accounting is made. A bookkeeping entry, it does not represent any cash outlay nor are any funds earmarked for the purpose.
Depository Trust Company (DTC) – A central securities certificate depository through which members effect security deliveries between each other via computerized bookkeeping entries thereby reducing the physical movement of stock certificates.
Depreciation – Normally, charges against earnings to write off the cost, less salvage value, of an asset over its estimated useful life. It is a bookkeeping entry and does not represent any cash outlay nor are any funds earmarked for the purpose.
Director – Person elected by shareholders to serve on the board of directors. The directors appoint the president, vice presidents, and all other operating officers. Directors decide, among other matters, if and when dividends shall be paid. (See: Proxy)
Discount – The amount by which a preferred stock or bond may sell below its par value. Also used as a verb to mean “takes into account” as the price of the stock has discounted the expected dividend cut. (See: Premium)
Discretionary account – An account in which the customer gives the broker or someone else discretion to buy and sell securities or commodities, including selection, timing, amount, and price to be paid or received.
Diversification – Spreading investments among different types of securities and various companies in different fields.
Dividend – The payment designated by the board of directors to be distributed pro rata among the shares outstanding. On preferred shares, it is generally a fixed amount. On common shares, the dividend varies with the fortunes of the company and the amount of cash on hand, and may be omitted if business is poor or the directors determine to withhold earnings to invest in plant and equipment. Sometimes a company will pay a dividend out of past earnings even if it is not currently operating at a profit.
Dollar-cost-averaging – A system of buying securities at regular intervals with a fixed dollar amount. Under this system investors buy by the dollars’ worth rather than by the number of shares. If each investment is of the same number of dollars, payments buy more shares when the price is low and fewer when it rises. Thus temporary downswings in price benefit investors if they continue periodic purchases in both good and bad times, and the price at which the shares are sold is more than their average cost. Dollar-cost-averaging does not assure a profit and does not protect against loss in declining markets. Since dollar-cost-averaging involves continuous investment in securities regardless of fluctuating price levels of such securities, investors should consider their financial ability to continue purchases through periods of low price levels.(See: Formula investing)
Down tick – (See: Up tick)
Dow theory – A theory of market analysis based upon the performance of the Dow Jones Industrial Average and transportation stock price averages. The theory says that the market is in a basic upward trend if one of these averages advances above a previous important high, accompanied or followed by a similar advance in the other. When both averages dip below previous important lows, this is regarded as confirmation of a downward trend. The Dow Jones is one type of market index. (See: NYSE Composite Index)
Earnings report – A statement, also called an income statement, issued by a company showing its earnings or losses over a given period. The earnings report lists the income earned, expenses and the net result. (See: Balance sheet)
Equipment trust certificate – A type of security, generally issued by a railroad, to pay for new equipment. Title to the equipment, such as a locomotive, is held by a trustee until the notes are paid off. An equipment trust certificate is usually secured by a first claim on the equipment.
Ex-dividend – A synonym for “without dividend.” The buyer of a stock selling ex-dividend does not receive the recently declared dividend. When stocks go ex-dividend, the stock tables include the symbol “x” following the name. (See: Cash sale, Net change, Transfer)
Ex-rights – Without the rights. Corporations raising additional money may do so by offering their stockholders the right to subscribe to new or additional stock, usually at a discount from the prevailing market price. The buyer of a stock selling ex-rights is not entitled to the rights. (See: Ex-dividend, Rights)
Extra – The short form of “extra dividend.” A dividend in the form of stock or cash in addition to the regular or usual dividend the company has been paying.
Face value – The value of a bond that appears on the face of the bond, unless the value is otherwise specified by the issuing company. Face value is ordinarily the amount the issuing company promises to pay at maturity. Face value is not an indication of market value. Sometimes referred to as par value. (See: Par)
FINRA – The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (f/k/a National Association of Securities Dealers), is the largest non-governmental regulator for all securities firms doing business in the United States. FINRA was created in July 2007 through the consolidation of NASD and the member regulation, enforcement and arbitration functions of the New York Stock Exchange.
Fiscal year – A corporation’s accounting year. Due to the nature of their particular business, some companies do not use the calendar year for their bookkeeping. A typical example is the department store that finds December 31 too early a date to close its books after the Christmas rush. For that reason many stores wind up their accounting year January 31. Their fiscal year, therefore, runs from February 1 of one year through January 31 of the next. The fiscal year of other companies may run from July 1 through the following June 30. Most companies, though, operate on a calendar year basis.
Fixed charges – A company’s fixed expenses, such as bond interest, which it has agreed to pay whether or not earned, and which are deducted from income before earnings on equity capital are computed.
Flat income bond – This term means that the price at which a bond is traded includes consideration for all unpaid accruals of interest. Bonds that are in default of interest or principal are traded flat. Income bonds that pay interest only to the extent earned are usually traded flat. All other bonds are usually dealt in “and interest,” which means that the buyer pays to the seller the market price plus interest accrued since the last payment date.
Floor broker – A member of the stock exchange who executes orders on the floor of the Exchange to buy or sell any listed securities. (See: Commission broker)
Formula investing – An investment technique. One formula calls for the shifting of funds from common shares to preferred shares or bonds as a selected market indicator rises above a certain predetermined point – and the return of funds to common share investments as the market average declines. (See: Dollar-cost-averaging)
Free and open market – A market in which supply and demand are freely expressed in terms of price. Contrasts with a controlled market in which supply, demand and price may all be regulated.
Fundamental research – Analysis of industries and companies based on such factors as sales, assets, earnings, products or services, markets and management. As applied to the economy, fundamental research includes consideration of gross national product, interest rates, unemployment, inventories, savings, etc. (See: Technical research)
Funded debt – Usually interest-bearing bonds or debentures of a company. Could include long-term bank loans. Does not include short-term loans, preferred or common stock.
Gilt-edged – High-grade bond issued by a company that has demonstrated its ability to earn a comfortable profit over a period of years and pay its bondholders their interest without interruption.
Give-up – A term with many different meanings. For one, a member of the exchange on the floor may act for a second member by executing an order for him or her with a third member. The first member tells the third member that he or she is acting on behalf of the second member and “gives up” the second member’s name rather than his or her own.
Gold fix – The setting of the price of gold by dealers (especially in a twice-daily London meeting at the central bank); the fix is the fundamental worldwide price for setting prices of gold bullion and gold-related contracts and products.
Good delivery – Certain basic qualifications must be met before a security sold on the Exchange may be delivered. The security must be in proper form to comply with the contract of sale and to transfer title to the purchaser.
Government bonds – Obligations of the U.S. Government, regarded as the highest grade securities issues.
Growth stock – Stock of a company with a record of growth in earnings at a relatively rapid rate.
Holding company – A corporation that owns the securities of another, in most cases with voting control.
Hypothecation – The pledging of securities as collateral – for example, to secure the debit balance in a margin account.
Income bond – Generally income bonds promise to repay principal but to pay interest only when earned. In some cases unpaid interest on an income bond may accumulate as a claim against the corporation when the bond becomes due. An income bond may also be issued in lieu of preferred stock.
Indenture – A written agreement under which bonds and debentures are issued, setting forth maturity date, interest rate and other terms.
Independent broker – Member on the floor of the NYSE who executes orders for other brokers having more business at that time than they can handle themselves, or for firms who do not have their exchange member on the floor.
Index – A statistical yardstick expressed in terms of percentages of a base year or years. For instance, the NYSE Composite Index of all NYSE common stocks is based on 1965 as 50. An index is not an average. (See Averages, NYSE Composite Index)
Initial public offering – (See: Primary distribution)
Institutional investor – An organization whose primary purpose is to invest its own assets or those held in trust by it for others. Includes pension funds, investment companies, insurance companies, universities and banks.
Intermarket Trading System (ITS) – An electronic communications network now linking the trading floor of seven registered exchanges and FINRA to foster competition among them in stocks listed on either the NYSE or AMEX and one or more regional exchanges. Through ITS, any broker or market maker on the floor of any participating market can reach out to other participants for an execution whenever the nationwide quote shows a better price is available.
Interrogation device – A computer terminal that provides market information – last sale price, quotes, volume, etc. – on a screen or paper tape.
Investment banker – Also known as an underwriter. The middleman between the corporation issuing new securities and the public. The usual practice is for one or more investment bankers to buy outright from a corporation a new issue of stocks or bonds. The group forms a syndicate to sell the securities to individuals and institutions. Investment bankers also distribute very large blocks of stocks or bonds – perhaps held by an estate. (See: Primary distribution, Syndicate)
Investment company – A company or trust that uses its capital to invest in other companies. There are two principal types: the closed-end and the open-end, or mutual fund. Shares in closed-end investment companies, some of which are listed on the New York Stock Exchange, are readily transferable in the open market and are bought and sold like other shares. Capitalization of these companies remains the same unless action is taken to change, which is seldom. Open-end funds sell their own shares to investors, stand ready to buy back their old shares, and are not listed. Open-end funds are so called because their capitalization is not fixed; they issue more shares as people want them.
Investment counsel – One whose principal business consists of acting as investment advisor and rendering investment supervisory services.
IRA – Individual retirement account. A pension plan with tax advantages. IRAs permit investment through intermediaries like mutual funds, insurance companies and banks, or directly in stocks and bonds through stockbrokers. (See: Keogh Plan)
Issue – Any of a company’s securities, or the act of distributing such securities.
Keogh plan – Tax-advantaged personal retirement program that can be established by a self-employed individual. (See: IRA)
Legal list – A list of investments selected by various states in which certain institutions and fiduciaries, such as insurance companies and banks, may invest. Legal lists are often restricted to high-quality securities meeting certain specifications. (See: Prudent Man Rule)
Leverage – The effect on a company when the company has bonds, preferred stock, or both outstanding. Example: If the earnings of a company with 1,000,000 common shares increases from $1,000,000 to $1,500,000, earnings per share would go up from $1 to $1.50, or an increase of 50%. But if earnings of a company that had to pay $500,000 in bond interest increased that much, earnings per common share would jump from $.50 to $1 a share, or 100%.
Liabilities – All the claims against a corporation. Liabilities include accounts, wages and salaries payable; dividends declared payable; accrued taxes payable; and fixed or long-term liabilities, such as mortgage bonds, debentures and bank loans. (See: Assets, Balance sheet)
Limit, limited order, or limited price order – An order to buy or sell a stated amount of a security at a specified price, or at a better price, if obtainable after the order is represented in the trading crowd.
Liquidation – The process of converting securities or other property into cash. The dissolution of a company, with cash remaining after sale of its assets and payment of all indebtedness being distributed to the shareholders.
Liquidity – The ability of the market in a particular security to absorb a reasonable amount of buying or selling at reasonable price changes. Liquidity is one of the most important characteristics of a good market.
Listed stock – The stock of a company that is traded on a securities exchange.
Load – The portion of the offering price of shares of open-end investment companies in excess of the value of the underlying assets. Covers sales commissions and all other costs of distribution. The load is usually incurred only on purchase, there being, in most cases, no charge when the shares are sold (redeemed). (See: Investment company)
Locked in – Investors are said to be locked in when they have profit on a security they own but do not sell because their profit would immediately become subject to the capital gains tax.
Manipulation – An illegal operation. Buying or selling a security for the purpose of creating false or misleading appearance of active trading or for the purpose of raising or depressing the price to induce purchase or sale by others.
Margin – The amount paid by the customer when using a broker’s credit to buy or sell a security. Under Federal Reserve regulations, the initial margin requirement since 1945 has ranged from the current rate of 50% of the purchase price up to 100%. (See: Brokers’ loan, Equity)
Margin call – A demand upon a customer to put up money or securities with the broker. The call is made when a purchase is made; also if a customer’s account declines below a minimum standard set by the exchange or by the firm.