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In finance, market depth is the size of an order needed to move the market a given amount. If the market is deep, a large order is needed to change the price. Contrast with liquidity, the ease to find a trading partner for a given order.
Factors influencing market depth include:
- Tick size. This refers to the minimum price increment at which trades may be made on the market. The major stock markets in the United States went through a process of decimalization in April 2001. This switched the minimum increment from sixteenths to pennies. This can safely be assumed to have enhanced market depth, if for no other reason than the protests and subsequent decline of market maker and specialist business such as Knight-Trimark, LaBranche, and Spear Leeds & Kellogg.
- Price movement restrictions. Most major financial markets do not allow completely free exchange of the products they trade, but instead restrict price movement in well-intentioned ways. These include session price change limits on major commodity markets and program trading curbs on the NYSE, which disallow certain large basket trades after the Dow Jones Industrial Average has moved up or down 200 points in a session.
- Trading restrictions. These include futures contract and options position limits as well as the widely used uptick rule for US stocks. These prevent market participants from adding to depth when they might otherwise choose to do so.
- Allowable leverage. Major markets and governing bodies typically set minimum margin requirements for trading various products. While this may act to stabilize the marketplace, it decreases the market depth simply because participants otherwise willing to take on very high leverage cannot do so without providing more capital.
- Market transparency. While the latest bid or ask price is usually available for most participants, additional information about the size of these offers and pending bids or offers that are not the best are sometimes hidden for reasons of technical complexity or simplicity. This decrease in available information can affect the willingness of participants to add to market depth.
In some cases, the term refers to financial data feeds available from exchanges or brokers. An example would be NASDAQ Level II quote data.
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