The New York Stock Exchange, or NYSE, is the world’s largest stock exchange by market capitalisation.
Figures from December 2010 show that the value of its 3,923 listed companies was $13.39 trillion (£8.31 trillion).
This in itself makes it an exchange that should not be ignored by UK investors looking for global diversification.
The origins of NYSE can be traced to 1792, when the Buttonwood Agreement was signed by 24 stockbrokers under a buttonwood tree on Wall Street, hence the name.
In 1817, it was renamed the New York Stock Exchange & Board, becoming simply the New York Stock Exchange in 1863.
It is now operated by NYSE Euronext, which was formed by the NYSE's 2007 merger with European stock exchange company Euronext.
NYSE Euronext manages seven equities exchanges and seven derivatives exchanges in five countries, including France, Belgium and The Netherlands.
The total market capitalisation of NYSE Euronext-listed companies around the world was at $22.2 trillion at the end of September 2010, while its equity exchanges transact an average daily trading value of approximately $96bn as of 30 September 2010.
When it comes to companies, NYSE Euronext markets offer the opportunity to trade in more than 8,000 issues from 55 countries, with 70 of the world’s 100 largest companies listed on its markets.
Among these are many of the largest US companies, including household names such as McDonald’s and Walmart.
But it is not just US-based companies that recognise the value of listing on an exchange with the size and depth of NYSE.
Many of the largest companies from around the world choose to list and trade on NYSE due to the amount of liquidity in the market.
HSBC and oil giant BP are just two of the well-known UK companies with dual listings in London and New York, and many companies choose it as the location of their initial public offerings (IPO).
Christiaan Brakman of NYSE Euronext said: “The liquidity of NYSE makes it one of the leading markets for IPOs, simply due to the amount of money available.
“It is also the place many of the banks that needed to recapitalise after the global financial crisis came to raise money via secondary listings.
“London, on the other hand, has seen a downturn in IPO activity over the last few years.”
He also points out that investing in companies from China, for example, through NYSE gives you the added security of US shareholder rights.
Other New York-based markets owned by NYSE Euronext that could be of interest to UK investors include ARCA, which lists more than 1,000 Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) and AMEX, which is for startups and smaller companies that do not qualify for the main exchange.
Meanwhile, when it comes to indices, you have the choice between the NYSE US 100 Index, the NYSE International 100 Index and NYSE World Leaders Index, among others.