Basics

When a company goes public with their  Initial Public Offering (IPO) of stock, they list on one of the financial exchanges ( see Stock Markets & Securities Exchanges)  also called the "secondary market".  In the secondary market, investors deal with "registered representatives” known as stockbrokers.  These individuals must be registered with the SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission) which represents a firm’s brokers and dealers who actually execute a customer’s order on the Exchange.  They never "buy or sell” for the customer but act on a customer’s behalf as an agent.  Stockbrokers or account executives are compensated by a brokerage commission; a fee which is charged each time a stock is bought or sold.

In the United States most investors invest in the financial markets within this country, as do many other traders around the world, since the U.S. market is the largest.  However, there are numerous financial markets around the globe.  See the following for a list of exchanges:
http://www.tdd.lt/slnews/Stock_Exchanges/Stock.Exchanges.htm .

The stock market is a place where stocks are bought and sold.  Stocks are listed on exchanges.  Stock markets/security markets are generic terms that people use to describe the physical locations and dealer networks on which securities are traded.  Securities are simply investments which can be stocks, bonds and mutual funds.  In recent years, with the advancement of computer technology, security markets have been moving from traditional “floors,” like the New York Stock Exchange, to electronic interfaces like NASDAQ.

In the United States the largest markets are:  The New York Stock Exchange (NYSE or NYSE Euronext);  The American Stock Exchange (AM EX) and The National Association of Securities Dealers Automated Quotation System (NASDAQ).  These three exchanges and others within the U.S. make up the "United States Stock Market".  All the exchanges in Canada, such as the Toronto Stock Exchange and the Montreal Exchange, make up the "Canadian Stock Market