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What is Market Depth?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 20 September 2016
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Market depth is a concept in finance referring to how capable the market is when it comes to absorbing large orders without changes in price. In a deep market, the market can sustain big orders without noticeable increases or increases in price, while in a shallow market, such orders can throw prices off. Market depth is also a reflection of liquidity. In a deep market, the market is highly liquid, while in a shallow market, liquidity is restricted.

It is possible for the market as a whole to be deep while individual securities are highly volatile. Values for securities depend on a lot of factors and do not always track with the rest of the market. Traders working in a deep market still consider issues pertaining to individual securities when making investment decisions and, likewise, in a shallow market, it may be possible to find more liquid securities that can sustain larger orders.

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High volumes of trading are not necessarily possible in a deep market. Trading volume has an impact on market depth, as there is a significant difference between executing large numbers of small- to medium-sized orders and placing several very large orders. Numerous orders can attract investor attention and may trigger a change in price as traders react. The completion of a single large order, on the other hand, can take place without affecting the price of a security in a deep market, as there will be enough buyers and sellers available to process the order at the stated price.

Consideration of market depth is one of the issues people must contemplate when investing and making long-term investment plans. Deep, liquid markets facilitate trading by making it easy for people to trade as needed and providing lots of room for people to experiment with different investments. In shallow markets with reduced liquidity, investments need to be made more carefully and there is a possibility of running out of capital for investments and being unable to free up more funds through trades.

Analysts at brokerages and other trading firms typically evaluate market depth along with other factors, using this information to prepare reports and recommendations. Financial publications also include write-ups on market conditions for the benefit of investors and personal finance advisors use this information to advise clients on the best investment decisions for their needs. Generally, investment in shallow markets requires more skills, as well as more access to ready capital because of the reduced liquidity.

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