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What Is a Global Market?

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  • Written By: Gregory Hanson
  • Edited By: Susan Barwick
  • Last Modified Date: 18 October 2014
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A global market is an exchange for goods or services that spans national boundaries to encompass the entire world or nearly the entire world. The term may be used to refer to the sum total of all of the market activity that takes place in the world. It may also refer to the market in a specific commodity product or currency, as in "the global market in oil". Markets on this scale are affected by a complex combination of international economic forces and the combined and interacting results of regulation in all of the nations that comprise the marketplace.

Full global economic integration has been a relatively rare historical phenomenon. The world economy was highly integrated in the period before the First World War, but the chaos engendered by that conflict damaged the world marketplace, and the Great Depression dealt it a nearly crippling blow. During the years following, the idea of autarky, or national economic independence, was quite popular with economic theorists and planners. A true global market for all goods and services only began to re-emerge toward the end of the 20th century, with the rise of free trade policies, the collapse of the Eastern Bloc, and the rapid opening of China to foreign trade and investment.

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The modern global market is characterized by the very rapid flow of capital from sector to sector and nation to nation in pursuit of profit. Stock and bond markets strongly influence one another. In some cases this amplifies the economic impact of events, as government bonds or regional stock markets can be subject to quite intense pressure from global investors during times of perceived crisis. This phenomenon can place tremendous pressure on national currencies and debts.

In 2011, the market in commodities is one of those most profoundly impacted by globalization. Economic developments in any nation now tend to have an impact on commodity prices throughout the global economy. The oil sector is a nearly ideal example of a global commodity market. Both the demand and the supply of oil are highly inelastic. This lack of flexibility in the marketplace means that a relatively small decrease in production or increase in demand anywhere in the world can produce a great shift in the value of oil everywhere in the world.

Global currency markets are a particularly extreme example of this variety of marketplace. Currency trading, by its very nature, tends to involve the rapid flow of wealth, as investors seek out greater profits on a very short-term basis. This phenomenon has led to several efforts to limit the functioning of the global market in currencies, as the rapid, largely speculative buying and selling of currencies can have a substantially disruptive effect on markets in actual physical goods.

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