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The China Factor

Unless you have been in a cocoon, you most likely are aware that China will in all probability become the next economic superpower in the world. The country’s economy is on steroids, growing at close to double digits over the past few years and this is not expected to change.

And if you understand the vast size of the country’s economic engine, you would also understand that China is a place where you need to have some capital invested. Of course, at the same time, you also need to fully understand the risk factors associated in investing in a country where the economy and corporate structure is strictly under the control of the communist-led government.

The concept of an open economy in China is debatable as there is the constant threat of government intervention at any time to suit the political agenda. Yet the risk is probably warranted given the vast growth opportunities that lie in the country for both multi-national companies and investors looking for some diversification outside of their borders. This region of the world will become the next big boom in economic growth as long as the Chinese government is willing.

A report just published by the Development Research Center of China’s State Council estimates that the country will report GDP growth of about 8% annually from 2006 to 2010. Based on the numbers we have been seeing, this estimate seems to be reasonable.

The report estimates that China’s GDP based on 2000 prices will hit USD$2.3 trillion by the end of the current five-year period in 2010.

In the subsequent 10-year period from 2010 to 2020, the report calculates a decline in the annual GDP growth rate to around 7%, which is still quite respectable. 

For investors, the estimated numbers are staggering but then China must be able to manage any inflationary and growth-related issues going forward as the country becomes richer.

The country’s middle class of several hundred million strong is booming as citizens move from the countryside to the cities in search of opportunities to increase their wealth.

As Chinese citizens make more money, they become more consumption driven. This in turn pumps up the demand for both domestic and foreign good and services. That’s why we are seeing such a mass flow of companies into China searching for growth opportunities.

The bottom line is you need to be in China at some point.  In future commentaries, I will examine some of the key Chinese stocks trading as American Depository Receipts (ADRs) in the U.S. Today, Tomorrow.

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The Different Types of Stock Markets

There are many different stock markets in the US. In most circumstances, the main markets that you will hear of are the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), the American Stock Exchange (AMEX) and the NASDAQ.

The markets are basically where people and companies trade securities. The market is the arena in which the players gather to trade.

The New York Stock Exchange has been around since 1792. It is located on Wall Street in New York City. The NYSE is the largest and best-known stock exchange in the country. It also has very stringent requirements for companies to join its listings. A company must be financially strong and show signs of being an industry leader to join the NYSE. Companies strive to belong to this market, and even pay annual fees for membership.

When a brokerage describes itself as a member of the NYSE it means that the firm has bought a seat on the floor of the NYSE. This means that there is actually an employee on the floor of the exchange buying and selling stock. This is an expensive investment for a firm, costing well over a million dollars.

The American Stock Exchange is similar to the NYSE in that it conducts its trading on a trading floor. The floor is filled with traders who buy and sell securities. The AMEX has been located in Manhattan since 1921. It is known as a major exchange for not only stocks, but also options. You will tend to find slightly riskier and smaller stocks listed on the AMEX, which operates under the NASDAQ-AMEX Market Group, a subsidiary of the National Association of Security Dealers.

NASDAQ, or the National Association of Securities Dealers Automated Quotations, is the youngest of the three major markets. It may also be the one you have heard the most about through the news. It lists just about every stock in the industry, but it is best known for listing technology companies. In fact, it is where you will find many major technology stocks, including Microsoft and Intel. It was launched in 1971 and was the first over-the-counter stock market. It links buyers and sellers via a computer network.

Brokers and dealers will market the stocks by maintaining an inventory in their own accounts. They will buy or sell when they receive an order from an investor. You will find that start-up companies that are issuing stock in an initial public offering will often list on the NASDAQ.

When it comes to buying stock, knowing where to find certain types of stock is important. Each market often specializes in slightly different types of stocks.