Quick Bites | Equity market winners and losers over the last 123 years

Although stock markets in 1900 were different from today, they were not a new phenomenon. By 1900, the Amsterdam exchange had already been in existence for nearly 300 years; the London Stock Exchange had been operating for over 200 years; and five other markets, including the New York Stock Exchange, had been in existence for 100 years or more. Indeed, Australia’s first stock exchange was established in Melbourne in 1861.

The two panels below show the relative sizes of equity markets at the end of 1899 (left panel) and how this had changed by the end of 2022 (right panel).

In 1899, the UK equity market was the largest in the world, accounting for almost a quarter of world capitalization (24%) and dominating the USA (15%). Germany (13%) ranked third, followed by France (11%), Russia (6%), and Austria-Hungary (5%).

Today the US market dominates its closest rival and accounts for 58.4% of total world equity market value. Japan at 6% is in second place, the UK (4%) is in third position, and China is ranked fourth (3.7%).

A comparison of the left and right panels shows that some countries had widely differing fortunes over the intervening 123 years. Investors in some countries suffered financial disaster: Austria at 5% and Russia at 6% were large markets in 1900, but are tiny today, accounting for just 0.06% and 0.26% of world capitalisation. The Austro-Hungarian Empire was effectively destroyed in the First World War, and the Russian market was wiped out by the Russian Revolution in 1917.

China was a tiny market in 1900, accounting for less than 0.4% of world equities, but today accounts for 3.7%. Australia has fallen slightly, from 3.4% in 1900 to 2.2% today.


Relative sizes of world stock markets, end-1899 (left) versus start-2023 (right)

Source: Credit Suisse


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