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Equities are investment products more commonly known as stocks or shares. In order to gain funding, a company may issue equity, or a share of its business, for sale to external investors. These investors may purchase the equity either publicly on stock exchanges or privately through private equity purchases.
Investors who buy shares in a company do so in the belief that the value of the shares will increase in time, thus increasing the value of their investment. Established companies may also pay shareholders dividends which are linked to company profits. New and growing companies tend not to pay dividends. Therefore investors purchasing shares in established companies generally expect a steady increase in the value of the shares coupled with regular dividend payments whereas anyone investing in a new company is more likely to be expecting a marked increase in the value of the shares to bring a return on their investment.
The value of equities can go up or down depending on a variety of factors. One factor is the how a company's performance is viewed by the market - if the market considers that a company is performing well and will continue to do so in the future, the share price is likely to increase. Conversely, a lack of confidence in a company and doubts about future performance can lead to a drop in price. These opinions are often based on more general assessments about how the market or economy in which a company is operating is performing - which may explain why many different shares seem to go up or down simultaneously.
Equity investors are often advised to view their investments in the longer term. Whilst the value of equities go up and down on a regular basis, experts commonly state that in the longer term - 5 years or longer - a portfolio of equity investments should show a decent return. Some investors, however, choose to trade at very short term levels - day trading has become more popular with the advent of electronic trading. As with all kinds of investment, however, day trading should be approached with caution and not without proper research and consultation with expert professionals.
Equities are traded most commonly by stockbrokers, who have the market knowledge and expertise to carry out effective transactions and gain the best available prices for clients.
Although equities traders do not require specific qualifications, trading is regulated by the Financial Services Authority (FSA) and anyone managing or advising on investments must be approved by the FSA. Traders must demonstrate commercial acumen and an aptitude for understanding how markets work. They learn their profession whilst working with experienced colleagues. The Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA UK) Society of the UK and the Chartered Institute for Securities and Investment both offer recognised training and qualifications.
Recent salaries advertised on TopFinancialJobs (February 2010) include:
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