As a source of capital for business, equity markets no longer register on the radar screen. In both Britain and US, funds withdrawn through acquisitions for cash and share buybacks have recently routinely and considerably exceeded the amounts raised in rights issues and IPOs.
At the same time, savings have become institutionalised. Initially such institutionalisation took place mainly through the investment activities of pension funds and insurance companies.
Today much of their activity has been outsourced and while pension funds and insurance companies are still important players, the equity investment chain is today dominated by the big asset managers — BlackRock, Vanguard, Fidelity and their competitors. And sovereign wealth funds are an increasingly important fraction of public market equity ownership.
The paradox of modern capital markets is that although there is less and less need for market activity from the point of view of either the end users of finance, or the investors who are the ultimate beneficiaries of finance, the volume of market activity has increased exponentially. To what purpose?