Wall Street is generally the term used to describe both the physical location of the financial district in New York City, where investors and financial professional gather to trade securities like stocks, bonds, and other assets, and more widely used today to describe the U.S. financial system as a whole, particularly the stock market and financial institutions.
What is Wall Street
In short, Wall Street has had its role as a meeting place for investors for a surprisingly lengthy amount of time. In fact, securities trading began there as far back as the 18th century. Over the history of America's capitalist economy, Wall Street has grown and evolved to become much more than a place for investors to trade, however. It was the origination of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), one of the quintessential exchanges for the U.S. stock market, that secured the place of Wall Street as the financial industry's most defining feature. It has also served as the location at one point or another of several other exchanges such as the Nasdaq, NYMEX, and AMEX.
Life on Wall Street
Wall Street, or The Street, still serves as the home of the NYSE. Stocks, bonds and commodities traders take buy and sell orders (generally in large volume) right on the trading floor. Though this type of face-to-face dealing between investors has become relatively rare, it has an enduring level of symbolic importance in the financial industry. Wall Street also served as the hub for most financial institutions back when it was geographically convenient to have offices in close proximity. Many brokerages and investment banks, including Goldman Sachs and the former Merrill Lynch, still own offices there, where their employees handle the dealings of investors and clients. However, as technology progressed, many firms relocated to Mid-Town Manhattan.
Wall Street's Economic Impact
Because the modern stock market is almost entirely digital, the functional significance of Wall Street as a physical location has faded in the financial industry. Other than the 3,000 or so traders and investors on the floor of the NYSE and a few investment bank offices, much of the financial institutions have since relocated headquarters. Symbolically, though, Wall Street still represents the stock market and the U.S. financial institutions as a whole to investors.