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The functioning of economic markets


Assembling an airplane
Assembling an airplane

Goods and services are traded in markets. Usually a market is a physical place where buyers and sellers meet to make exchanges, once they have agreed on a price for the product. One kind of marketplace is a grocery store, where people go to buy food and household products. However, many markets are not confined to specific locations. In a broader sense, markets include all the places and sources where goods and services are exchanged. For example, the labor market does not exist in a specific physical building, as does a grocery market. Instead, the term labor market describes a multitude of individuals offering their labor for sale as well as all the businesses searching for employees.

Traders do not always have to meet in person to buy and sell. Markets can operate via technology, such as a telephone line or a computer site. For example, stocks and other financial securities have long been traded electronically or by telephone. It is becoming increasingly common in the United States for many other kinds of goods and services to be sold this way. For instance, many people today use the Internet—the worldwide computer-based network of information systems—to buy airline tickets, make hotel reservations, and rent a car for their vacation. Other people buy and sell items ranging from books, clothing, and airline tickets to baseball cards and other rare collectibles over the Internet.

Although these Internet buyers and sellers may never meet face to face the way buyers and sellers do in more traditional markets, these markets share certain basic features.

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