Study Says World's Stocks Controlled by Select Few

Introduction (Via ISNS)

A recent analysis of the 2007 financial markets of 48 countries has revealed that the world’s finances are in the hands of just a few mutual funds, banks, and corporations. This is the first clear picture of the global concentration of financial power, and point out the worldwide financial system’s vulnerability as it stood on the brink of the current economic crisis.

A pair of physicists at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich did a physics-based analysis of the world economy as it looked in early 2007. Stefano Battiston and James Glattfelder extracted the information from the tangled yarn that links 24,877 stocks and 106,141 shareholding entities in 48 countries, revealing what they called the “backbone” of each country’s financial market. These backbones represented the owners of 80 percent of a country’s market capital, yet consisted of remarkably few shareholders.

Excerpts (Via ISNS)

“It’s clear, looking at financial contagion and recent crises, that understanding interrelations between companies and holdings is very important in the future,” he said. “Certainly people have some understanding of how large some of these financial institutions in the world are, there’s some feeling of how intertwined they are, but there’s a big difference between having an impression and actually having … more explicit numbers to put behind it.”

Based on their analysis, Glattfelder and Battiston identified the ten investment entities who are “big fish” in the most countries. The biggest fish was the Capital Group Companies, with major stakes in 36 of the 48 countries studied. In identifying these major players, the physicists accounted for secondary ownership — owning stock in companies who then owned stock in another company — in an attempt to quantify the potential control a given agent might have in a market.

The results raise questions of where and when a company could choose to exert this influence, but Glattfelder and Battiston are reluctant to speculate.

“In this kind of science, complex systems, you’re not aiming at making predictions [like] … where the tennis ball will be at given place in given time,” Battiston said. “What you’re trying to estimate is … the potential influence that [an investor] has.”

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30. August 2009 by Miguel Barbosa
Categories: Curated Readings, Finance & Investing | Leave a comment

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