World Stock Markets: Everything You Need to Know

For traders and investors, globalization can be a good thing. Today, the opportunities to buy stocks, bonds and other assets from around the world have never been greater. From Paris to Sub-Saharan Africa, investors of all sizes and walks now have the ability to capitalize on a multitude of investments. The best part is anyone with a simple brokerage account can access international stocks traded on their local exchanges. That said, it’s not a simple as just filling out a buy order and pressing submit.

Each exchange has its own rules and quirks. For a trader to be successful in the international space, it’s important to know the differences. Here we present the world’s biggest and most important stock exchanges.

Be sure to also read A Trader’s Guide to Understanding Business Cycles

New York Stock Exchange (NYSE)

They say if you can make it New York, you can make it anywhere. That holds true in the investment world as well. Case in point, the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE). Officially founded in 1817, the “Big Board” has served as the home to the world’s largest companies and the NYSE has been an innovator in the world’s financial markets. It created the idea of a stock ticker back in 1867.

LocationTime ZoneNormal HoursNumber Of StocksTotal Market Capitalization
New York City, New YorkEastern Standard Time (EST)9 am to 4 pm1,867$16.613 Trillion

Today, just under 1,900 companies worth roughly $17 trillion in market capitalization trade on the NYSE. Currently owned by Intercontinental Exchange (ICE), the NYSE continues to be the leading stock exchange in the world.

CompanyTickerMarket Cap
Exxon MobilXOM$435 Billion
Johnson & JohnsonJNJ$296 billion
Wells FargoWFC$270 Billion
General ElectricGE$265 Billion
ChevronCVX$244 Billion
Procter & GamblePG$219 Billion
J.P. MorganJPM$210 Billion
VerizonVZ$206 Billion
PfizerPFE$191 Billion
International Business MachinesIBM$189 Billion

NASDAQ OMX Stock Exchange

Technology has certainly changed the way Wall Street works, and a good bit of today’s technology came from the launch of the NASDAQ OMX Stock Exchange. Founded in 1971, as the National Association of Securities Dealers Automated Quotations, the NASDAQ was the world’s first electronic stock market and helped use the idea of penny trading with regards to bid/ask spreads. The NASDAQ’s innovation continued as it became the first exchange to start trading online and was the first to offer electronic order entering rather than via telephone. More recently, the exchange has created new cloud computing and wireless trading offerings.

LocationTime ZoneNormal HoursNumber Of StocksTotal Market Capitalization
New York City, New YorkEastern Standard Time (EST)Premarket Session- 4 am to 9:30 am, Normal Market Session- 9:30 am to 4 pm, Post Market Session 4 pm to 8 pm3400$8.5 Trillion

This history of technology has made the NASDAQ the place for many of the world’s top technology sector firms, and the very popular PowerShares QQQ NASDAQ Tracking ETF (QQQ) is thought of as a proxy for the tech sector. Today, the NASDAQ is home to 3,400 listed companies, representing 35 different countries equaling $8.5 trillion in market cap.

CompanyTickerMarket Cap
AppleAAPL$573 Billion
MicrosoftMSFT$346 Billion
GoogleGOOG, GOOGL$389 Billion
IntelINTC$154 billion
Amazon.comAMZN$158 Billion
Gilead SciencesGILD$136 Billion
QualcommQCOM$134 Billion
Cisco SystemsCSCO$130 Billion
FacebookFB$170 Billion
eBayEBAY$65 Billion

Tokyo Stock Exchange (Tōshō)

Called the “Gateway To Asia,” the Tokyo Stock Exchange is the major outlet in the Asia-Pacific for stock investors. Originally founded in 1878, the current form of the TSE was created in post-war Japan in 1949 after the nation’s regional exchanges merged. Between 1983 and 1990—when Japanese stocks were rising—the TSE accounted for over 60% of the world’s stock market capitalization. While the Japan bubble may have popped, the exchange is still one of the largest in the world.

Be sure to also download the Global Trading Times Cheat Sheet

LocationTime ZoneNormal HoursNumber Of StocksTotal Market Capitalization
Tokyo, JapanJapan Standard Time (JST)8 am to 1130 am, 12 pm to 5 pm2,292$4.5 Trillion

Today, the TSE is home to a total of 2,292 companies. These firms are separated by sub-exchanges, which are grouped as the First Section for large companies, the Second Section for mid-sized companies, and the Mothers section for high growth startup and emerging market stocks. Unlike U.S. exchanges, the TSE uses numbers to identify underlying stocks. As of November 2013, these firms represented a combined market capitalization of US $4.5 trillion.

CompanyTickerMarket Cap (¥)
Toyota Motor Corp7203¥187 Billion
Mitsubishi UFJ Financial8306¥83 Billion
Softbank Corp.9984¥88 Billion
Honda Motor7267¥63 Billion
Sumitomo Mitsui Financial8316¥56 Billion
Mizuho Financial Group8411¥48 Billion
Nippon Telegraph & Telephone9432¥71 Billion
Japan Tobacco2914¥66 Billion
Canon7751¥37 Billion
Hitachi6501¥35 Billion

London Stock Exchange (LSE)

The London Stock Exchange (LSE) is the largest stock exchange in Europe, and is one of the world’s oldest, having been officially founded in 1801. The exchange traces it origins back to the Royal Exchange founded in 1571 as well as series of commodities and stock brokerage operations that were conducted out of local coffeehouses. Today, the LSE is home to the majority of Europe’s stock, derivatives, bonds and ETF/ETP trading. Additionally, the LSE operates the Alternative Investment Market (AIM) as a sub-market for smaller companies to float shares amid a more flexible regulatory system than is applicable to the main LSE marketplace.

See also Options 101: American vs. European vs. Exotic

LocationTime ZoneNormal HoursNumber Of StocksTotal Market Capitalization
London, EnglandGreenwich Mean Time8 am to 4:30 pm2,938$3.89 Trillion

Currently, the LSE has around 2,938 companies from over 60 countries listed on its exchange – 1151 are located on the AIM, while 54 are placed on the LSE’s Professional Securities Market and Specialist Funds Market. All in all, this equals roughly $3.9 trillion worth of market cap.

CompanyTickerMarket Cap (£)
Royal Dutch ShellRDSA,RDSB£135 Billion
HSBCHSBA£129 Billion
BPBP£85 Billion
Vodafone GroupVOD£83 Billion
GlaxoSmithKlineGSK£73 Billion
British American TobaccoBATS£69 Billion
SABMillerSAB£53 Billion
DiageoDGE£50 Billion
BG GroupBG£49 Billion
Rio Tinto GroupRIO£44 Billion

Shanghai Stock Exchange

As China has grown in economic significance, so has the number of stocks domiciled in the nation. The Shanghai Stock Exchange is one of the two main exchanges located in the emerging market – the other being the Shenzhen Stock Exchange (SZSE). While the Shanghai Stock Exchange can trace its origins back to 1866, it wasn’t until 1990 that the SSE was re-established and operations began as we know them today.

Currently, the SSE has around 900 different stocks trading on its exchange as well as various bonds and mutual funds. However, the kicker for investors is that most of these stocks are off-limits to non-Chinese citizens. The exchange consists of two shares classes: “A” shares and “B” shares. A shares are priced in the local renminbi yuan currency and are only available to domestic investors and those who have Qualified Foreign Institutional Investor (QFII) status. B shares, which are priced in U.S. dollars, are available to both domestic and foreign investors.

That means much of the SSE’s $2.8 trillion worth of market cap is off limits to most investors. However, there are some ways—such as the new db X-trackers Harvest China ETF (ASHR) – that allow traders and investors to bet on these A Shares.

Hong Kong Stock Exchange (SEHK)

For investors wanting to really trade Chinese stocks, they must hop a ferry over to neighboring Hong Kong and place their bets on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange (SEHK). The SEHK originally took off when the Association of Stockbrokers in Hong Kong was established back in 1891. It was in the 1970s that the four main Hong Kong exchanges merged to form the SEHK.

LocationTime ZoneNormal HoursNumber Of StocksTotal Market Capitalization
Central, Victoria City, Hong KongHong Kong TimeMorning Session – 9:30 am to 12 pm,Afternoon Session – 1:30 pm to 4 pm1615$2.25 Trillion

As of the end of 2013, SEHK had a total of 1,615 listed companies. That includes 776 from mainland China as well as 102 from other nations. These H Shares are priced in Hong Kong dollars and are available to foreign investors. There are two main things to remember when looking at stocks on the SEHK. One is that many Hong Kong stocks – including those large and well known firms – can and do trade for less than HK$4 a share. Second, unlike U.S. stocks where you can by single shares, stocks on SEHK trade in predetermined lot sizes as set forth by the exchange.

CompanyTickerMarket Cap ($HK)
HSBC5$1.5 Trillion
AIA Group1299$473 Billion
Tencent700$1.14 Trillion
Sinopec386$183 Billion
ChinaLife2608$70 Billion
Wharf Holdings4$171 Billion
CLP Holdings2$160 Billion
PetroChina857$209 Billion
Hutchison Whampoa13$443 Billion
Lenovo Group992$112 Billion


The Euronext is a newcomer in terms of the exchanges, having been created back in 2000 when the Amsterdam Exchange, Brussels Stock Exchange, and Paris Bourse merged. The basic idea was to create a single destination for the European Union’s financial markets. Later, Portugal’s major stock exchange was added to the mix. As such, the Euronext has become one of the region’s leading exchanges for stocks and other assets. That size and scope also includes derivatives via the integration of the London International Financial Futures and Options Exchange (LIFFE) back in 2001.

The Euronext later merged with the NYSE, though the two groups keep their exchanges separate. The Euronext is now owned by the Intercontinental Exchange (ICE).

See also 25 Bizarre Futures Contracts

LocationTime ZoneNormal HoursNumber Of StocksTotal Market Capitalization
Amsterdam, The NetherlandsCET/CEST9:00 am to 5:30 pm1300$3.7 Trillion

Currently, Euronext has just under 1,300 listings across its two major platforms. That includes some of Europe’s largest and most important firms. All in all, the Euronext has a total market cap of around $3.7 trillion.

CompanyTickerMarket Cap (€)
Total SAFP.PA€115 Billion
Anheuser-Busch INBEVABI.BR€133 Billion
SanofiSAN.PA€100 Billion
BNP ParibasBNP.PA€100 Billion
LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis VuittonMC.PA€69 Billion
AXA SACS.PA€42 Billion
Air LiquideAI.PA€33 Billion

Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX)

The origins of the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX) began in 1852, when a group of Toronto businessmen formed the Association of Brokers. That group would later officially set-up the exchange during a meeting at a Freemason Lodge. The TSX was formally incorporated by an act of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario in 1878.

After a realignment of Canada’s major brokerage platforms, the TSX became the major exchange for the vast bulk of Canada’s senior equities. Junior shares and derivatives can still be traded on the nation’s other smaller exchanges, like the Canadian Venture Exchange and the Bourse de Montréal.

LocationTime ZoneNormal HoursNumber Of StocksTotal Market Capitalization
Toronto, CanadaEastern Standard Time9:00 am to 4:00 pm1,560$2.215 Trillion

Today, the TSX has roughly 1,560 different listings on its platform – including all of the major Canadian banks. Additionally, the TSX is seen as the world’s commodities exchange, as more stocks in the mining, oil & gas and natural resources sectors are listed here than any other stock exchange. All in all, the TSX has a total market cap of $2.215 trillion.

Be sure to read The Single Most Important Report for Commodity Traders: COT Explained

CompanyTickerMarket Cap (CAD)
Royal Bank CanadaRY.TO$112 Billion
Toronto-Dominion BankTD.TO$101 Billion
Bank of Nova ScotiaBNS.TO$87 Billion
Suncor EnergySU.TO$65 Billion
Canadian National RailwaysCNR.TO$58 Billion
Canadian Natural ResourcesCNQ.TO$52 Billion
Bank of MontrealBMO.TO$52 Billion
EnbridgeENB.TO$42 Billion
Valeant PharmaceuticalsVRX.TO$43 Billion
Manulife Financial CorpMFC.TO$39 Billion

Frankfurt Stock Exchange (Deutsche Börse)

Representing the other half of Europe, the Deutsche Borse is the gateway to Germany as well as a leading provider of derivatives trading, clearing, settlement and custody services. The origins of the exchange head all the way back to the 9th century, when Emperor Louis the German set up a series of free trade fairs. By the mid-16th century Frankfurt had developed into a leading financial powerhouse and the Deutsche Borse was officially founded.

LocationTime ZoneNormal HoursNumber Of StocksTotal Market Capitalization
Frankfurt, GermanyCentral European Time9:00 am to 5:30 pm765$1.3 Trillion

Since the end of World War II, the Deutsche Boerse has flourished. Today, the Frankfurt Stock Exchange is used by more than 250 international trading institutions, and investors using the exchange represent 35% of the world’s total investment capital.

Overall, the Deutsche Boerse has nearly 800 different stocks listed on its exchange – representing about $1.3 trillion in total market cap.

CompanyTickerMarket Cap (€)
Bayer AGBAYN.DE€84 Billion
BASF SEBAS.DE€77 Billion
Siemens AktiengesellschaftSIE.DE€78 Billion
Daimler AGDAI.DE€72 Billion
Allianz SEALV.DE€59 Billion
SAP AGSAP.DE€69 Billion
Deutsche TelekomDTE.DE€55 Billion
Deutsche BankDBK.DE€26 Billion
E.ON SEEOAN.DE€27 Billion

The Bottom Line

For investors, trading the world has never been easier. With a simple brokerage account, many of us now have access to stocks domiciled on local exchanges. Accessing these opportunities is easy once you understand some of the differences in the world’s leading stock exchanges. The preceding exchanges are the best ways for investors to get their feet wet in the international markets.

Aaron Levitt
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