The investing term stock exchange specialist refers to a member of a stock exchange that assists in the trading of certain stocks. The principal duty of a specialist is to match buyers of stocks with sellers, thereby ensuring liquidity in the stocks they trade.
Approximately 400 specialists represent the nearly 3,000 companies listed on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE Euronext). Specialists "make a market" in the stocks they trade by organizing the bid and ask orders received. According to the New York Stock Exchange, specialists have four duties:
- Auctioneer: making firm and continuous quotes which accurately reflect the current market condition for the stocks they trade, while disseminating quotes electronically worldwide.
- Catalyst: acting as a conduit by bringing together buyers and sellers as well as the public pricing of orders. The specialist is also responsible for tracking open interest in their stocks.
- Agent: holding the interest of orders entrusted to them above their own, routing of orders with special instructions, and properly representing each order, regardless of the size or source.
- Principal: ensuring the market for their stocks is always in equilibrium, including committing their own capital or inventory of stock; providing short-term liquidity when there is an inadequate supply of buyers or sellers.
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