Stock Market Continues To Shrink

  January 19, 2018

Over the past 20 years the number of corporations with listed shares traded on U.S. exchanges has actually dropped by approximately 40%. In the 1990s, there were once over 8,800 publicly traded companies with a total market capitalization of about $20.9 trillion. As of the end of December 2017, total market capitalization was $27.7 trillion, yet with 40% less stocks than in the 1990s.

Supply and demand has become a key valuation component of the equity markets, as there are far fewer stocks available, but at higher prices.

Shares have decreased for various reasons, including aggressive share buybacks and higher regulatory costs. Mergers and acquisitions have also reduced supply while fewer firms are willing to deal with the costs and regulations involved in being public.  As fewer companies are willing to be publicly traded, more are eager to become private or be acquired by private equity firms.

As the equity markets have consolidated, so have some of the indices made up of these publicly traded stocks. The broadest equity index of all is the Wilshire 5000 index, which no longer includes 5000 companies, but currently includes only 3503 companies (as of September 2017).

 

Sources: Federal Reserve; fred.stlouisfed.org/categories/33194, Wilshire Associates

Indices mentioned are unmanaged and cannot be invested into directly.

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