What Value Does Trading Provide?

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Written By
Contributor Image
Written By
Dan Buckley
Dan Buckley is an US-based trader, consultant, and part-time writer with a background in macroeconomics and mathematical finance. He trades and writes about a variety of asset classes, including equities, fixed income, commodities, currencies, and interest rates. As a writer, his goal is to explain trading and finance concepts in levels of detail that could appeal to a range of audiences, from novice traders to those with more experienced backgrounds.

Trading provides value to the financial system and economy in several key ways.

Some who don’t understand or like finance, markets, or trading might claim it’s a “waste of time” or that other industries should be getting more of the talent that the financial industry gets.

What exactly is the function and value of trading?

We structure this article into three main blocks:

  • the economic, financial, business, and commercial importance of trading
  • the value for individual traders
  • trading as an intellectual pursuit and self-improvement


Key Takeaways – What Value Does Trading Provide?

  • Economic, Financial, and Business Functions of Trading:
    • Liquidity Provision
    • Price Discovery
    • Risk Management & Risk Transfer
    • Capital Allocation
    • Market Efficiency
    • Economic Indicators
    • Global Economic Integration
    • Innovation and Growth
    • Portfolio Optimization
    • Price Stabilization
  • Value to Individual Traders:
    • Opportunities for Profit
    • Portfolio Management
    • Facilitate Retirement
    • Inflation Hedge
  • Intellectual Stimulation of Trading:
    • Multidisciplinary
      • Mathematics and Statistics
      • Game Theory
      • Economics and Finance
      • Technology and Engineering
      • Computer Science
    • Competitive & Entrepreneurial Environment
      • Problem Solving
      • Entrepreneurial Spirit
      • Result-Oriented
    • Psychological & Strategic Dynamics
      • Market Psychology
      • Strategic Thinking
    • Continuous Learning & Adaptation
      • Rapid Feedback Loop
      • Learning from History


Economic, Financial, and Business Functions of Trading

1. Liquidity Provision

Trading facilitates the buying and selling of assets without causing significant price changes.

This liquidity is important for the efficient functioning of financial markets by allowing market participants to quickly enter or exit positions.

2. Price Discovery

Trading helps in the discovery of asset prices that reflect all available information.

This price discovery mechanism refers to whether asset prices are a true reflection of their underlying value – i.e., taking into account current supply and demand, news, and future expectations.

3. Risk Management & Risk Transfer

Trading enables investors, traders, companies, and governments to manage risk through various financial instruments (e.g., options, futures, underlying markets).

Hedging strategies allow participants to protect against adverse price movements and reduce the risk associated with market volatility and other forms of risk.

Trading enables the transfer of risk from those who don’t want to bear it to those willing to be compensated to take it on, such as hedgers and speculators.

This helps manage and distribute risk effectively.

4. Capital Allocation

Trading directs capital to its most efficient uses by channeling funds from investors to entities in need of capital – e.g., through the issuance and trading of stocks and bonds or direct investments through channels like venture capital, private equity, private credit, etc.).

This efficient allocation of resources supports economic growth and innovation.

5. Market Efficiency

Through arbitrage and the competition among traders, markets become more efficient as prices adjust to reflect new information quickly.

Efficient markets means that prices don’t deviate significantly from their fair value for extended periods.

6. Economic Indicators

Market trends and trading volumes can serve as economic indicators.

They provide insight into sentiment, various forms of data, and the overall health of the economy.

Analysts and policymakers often use market data to inform economic decisions and forecasts.

Some policymakers – especially those with academic backgrounds – don’t use financial market data as much as raw economic data, but market signals from those with the collective incentive to get things right have a lot of value.

7. Global Economic Integration

Trading on global markets helps with the flow of capital across borders.

This can promote economic integration and better relations among countries.

This integration supports global economic growth and can lead to more stable financial markets.

8. Innovation and Growth

The financial incentives created through trading help with innovation and growth within the economy.

Companies are motivated to improve performance and innovate to attract investment and increase their market value.

In general, liquid and efficient financial markets facilitated by trading promote investment, capital formation, and ultimately economic growth and development.

9. Portfolio Optimization

Trading allows traders/investors to adjust and optimize their portfolios according to their risk preferences, goals, and time horizons.

Getting more with the same level of risk, getting the same with less risk, or some permutation thereof is important in bringing about more efficient outcomes.

10. Price Stabilization

Trading by market makers and arbitrageurs helps maintain orderly markets and prevents excessive price volatility or divergence from fair values.



Value to Individual Traders

Opportunities for Profit

Traders seek to benefit from price movements in markets.

Skillful trading can generate returns (with the important caveat that it also carries risks).

Portfolio Management

Trading offers ways to build diverse portfolios and manage risk according to individual goals and risk tolerance.

Facilitate Retirement

Investments eventually allow one the option to retire and not have to continually work.

Inflation Hedge

Certain assets purchased through trading (like commodities, some stocks, some real estate) can help protect against the erosion of purchasing power caused by inflation.


Intellectual Stimulation of Trading

What about personal factors?


  • Mathematics, Statistics and Probability – Trading can involve mathematical models and statistical analysis to predict market movements and optimize strategies. Markets are essentially a game of applied probability.
  • Game Theory – Understanding the strategic behavior of market participants is important in many forms of trading. Traders can have an edge if they can anticipate the actions of others and adapt their strategies accordingly. (See: Agent-Based Modeling)
  • Economics and Finance – Knowledge of economic indicators, market cycles, and financial instruments is fundamental to making quality trading decisions.
  • Technology and Engineering – Styles like HFT rely on high-end technological infrastructure, including algorithms, high-speed networks, and data analytics, to execute trades at microseconds speed.
  • Programming and Computer Science – Developing and refining trading algorithms requires deep knowledge of programming, data structures, and algorithmic efficiency.

Competitive & Entrepreneurial Environment

  • Problem Solving – Traders face the intellectually stimulating challenge of deciphering complex, dynamic systems to identify profitable opportunities.
  • Entrepreneurial Spirit – Trading is described as an entrepreneurial endeavor where traders are tasked with the vague goal of “make money trading.” Bringing this to fruition requires innovation and strategic thinking.
  • Result-Oriented – Performance is directly measurable in financial terms. Provides immediate feedback on the effectiveness of strategies.

Psychological & Strategic Dynamics

  • Market Psychology – Understanding and predicting human behavior and market sentiment.
  • Strategic Thinking – Traders must be adept at strategic planning, often under high pressure and with significant financial stakes.

Continuous Learning & Adaptation

  • Rapid Feedback Loop – Trading provides constant feedback. You can’t fake your way through it. Allows traders to quickly assess how their strategies are going and adapt as needed.
  • Learning from History – Successful traders study historical financial events and market cycles to better understand current market dynamics and anticipate future trends.


Important Considerations

Responsible Trading

The value provided by trading is maximized in a well-regulated environment.

This is important for fair play and protection for all participants.

Not for Everyone

Trading carries risk.

Not all individual traders see positive returns, and some lose money.

Education and thorough understanding are important.



Trading is important in the functioning of modern economies by providing market liquidity, enabling price discovery, allowing for efficient capital allocation, and facilitating risk management.

These functions are critical for the smooth operation of financial markets, the efficient allocation of resources, and the overall health and growth of the economy.

Through these mechanisms, trading contributes to a more dynamic, innovative, and resilient economic system.