How Many Stocks Are There?

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Contributor, Benzinga
August 30, 2021

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The term “stock market” refers to a marketplace in which equity ownership in a company or organization may be traded. This question is somewhat broad, however, as it can be interpreted as how many public companies are in operation, how many stock tickers there are or even how many shares exist. In each case, the number grows. For example, Apollo Global Management, Inc (NYSE: APO ) is 1 company, yet it has 3 tradable ticker symbols on the NYSE (APO, APO-A, and APO-B), each with different numbers of shares outstanding (235.53, 11, and 12 million, respectively, in August 2021). See how quickly that number grew, from 1 company to 3 ticker symbols to 258 million shares? 

How Many Stocks Are There?

A large number of public companies trade globally, and an even larger number of tradable tickers exist representing different types of shares. The 3 largest stock exchanges by market cap, the NYSE, Nasdaq, and Shanghai Stock Exchange, have 7,754  4,448 and 2,014 tradable names, respectively, in August 2021. Surprisingly, however, data from Benzinga shows a grand total of 5,866. This discrepancy occurs because some companies may have multiple ticker symbols, as does Apollo in the example above. These alternate ticker symbols differentiate the various shares a company may have issued. For example, Ashford Hospitality Trust (NYSE: AHT) lists its common stock under the ticker symbol AHT, yet the company has also issued several rounds of preferred stock, which trade under AHT-D.

How Much Money Is in the Stock Market?

The value of the stock market more than doubles the combined gross domestic product (GDP) of the world’s 10 largest countries by GDP. Globally, over 60 stock exchanges operate, 21 of which are worth over $1 trillion, constituting over 90% of total global market cap in August 2021. In total, the world’s stock exchanges are worth over $110 trillion. That is enough money to give every person on Earth nearly $1,400. 

Diversity Increases Security

You may have heard of a general investing strategy called “buying the market.” But what does  this concept mean? Does buying the market involve allocating a portion of your portfolio to every publicly traded company? While you would achieve a highly diversified portfolio by doing this, there are better alternatives.

Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs)

In short, an ETF is a basket of stocks and bonds that can be highly diversified across the broader market or sector. Consider investing in ETFs, which tend to carry low levels of volatility and are expected to increase modestly in value as time goes by.

Mutual Funds

Similarly to ETFs, mutual funds are also diversified and contain a basket of stocks and bonds. The difference lies in how they are managed. Mutual funds tend to be more actively managed, thus carrying higher fees. Additionally, mutual funds do not shift in price throughout the day. Mutual funds are another way to participate in the stock market. 

Are all Diverse Portfolios Secure?

No portfolio is ever fully secure, which is why risk exists when investing in equity markets. Investing in a wide variety of companies and industries can help ensure that you are not overexposing your portfolio to a single stock, industry, sector or geographical region. A non-diversified set of holdings will make your portfolio more responsive to negative news potentially affecting each stock or industry you are in.

Is There an Unlimited Number of Shares for Each Company?

A company does not have a limit on the number of shares it can issue (as long as the current shareholders and any other member with voting rights approves the issuance); however, no company has an infinite number of shares. For example, Apple, Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) has 16.53 billion shares outstanding. That means that the maximum number of shares that could be bought or sold at any one time is 16.53 billion, unless Apple were to issue more shares.

What Happens if Your Stocks Have Low Liquidity?

Stocks with low liquidity may be harder to buy or sell and have more choppy price graphs because prices do not change as smoothly as stocks with higher liquidity.

How Do you Find High Liquidity?

You can look for 3 metrics when judging the liquidity of a stock. The average trade volume of a stock represents the average number of times shares are traded in a given day. Additionally, the total number of shares outstanding shows how many shares are available for trading. For both of these metrics, the higher the number, the better. 

Lastly, look at the percentage of shares held by institutions. The trading habits of institutional investors differ from those of retail traders as their positions have the ability to move a stock’s share price to a greater extent than non-institutional investors. Some studies have found that greater institutional ownership tends to lead to increased liquidity of a stock.

Why Are There Fewer Traded Companies Today Than Before?

Despite a robustly growing economy, the number of public companies has contracted since its peak of around 8,000 in the 1990s. Since 2016, when the number of public companies on U.S. stock exchanges dropped to around 3,500, the number has recovered to nearly 6,000. 

Equity markets in the 1990s were dominated by internet, technology and media companies that were capitalizing on the dot-com bubble. After that bubble popped, many companies went bankrupt and were subsequently delisted from exchanges. Initial Public Offerings (IPOs) have slowed since the ‘90s. For example, in 1996, 848 companies went public, raising $78.6 billion. In contrast, in 2020 Dealogic reported that 454 companies underwent the IPO process and raised $167.2 billion. While the number of IPOs has dwindled since then, the amount of money companies are raising far exceeds raises in the ‘90s.  It is important to note that recently, IPO activity has been picking up, with 2020 being the year of special-purpose acquisition companies (SPACs).

Finally, M&A activity is rising. Increasing M&A activity means fewer companies that can be publicly traded. If a public company is acquired or merges with another company, then its ticker symbol is delisted. In the first half of 2021, $2.4 trillion in deals were completed, putting the year on track to be record-setting in terms of M&A activity.

So while it is true that the number of public companies in the U.S. has dropped since the ‘90s, you can rest well knowing that the trade-off has been more valuable IPOs and deals. 

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What Should I Do With This Information

With nearly 6,000 publicly traded companies, rest assured that any industry or type of business you would want to invest in can be accessed through an exchange. Having such a large number of publicly traded companies should give you the confidence your money can keep up with an ever-growing and changing business landscape. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Q
What are the main types of stocks and securities?
A

4 types of securities – debt, equity, derivative and hybrid securities 

3 types of stocks – common stock, preferred stock and convertible preferred stock

Q
How many public stocks are there in the U.S.?
A

5,866 companies and 8,024 ticker symbols trade on U.S. stock exchanges in August 2021.