Profile America -- Friday, May 17th. The New York Stock Exchange, by signaling business prospects through share prices, has long been a bellwether of the nation's economic health. The exchange started on this date in 1792, as some two dozen merchants and brokers established an organized approach to their buying and selling. In good weather, they operated under a Buttonwood tree on Wall Street. Otherwise, they moved to the shelter of a nearby coffeehouse to continue their trading. This makeshift setup eventually evolved into an economic powerhouse, watched closely each trading day to see how the bulls or bears are assessing the overall U.S. economy. Eighteen percent of U.S. households directly own shares of stock and about 44 percent invest in mutual funds. Profile America is in its 17th year as a public service of the U.S. Census Bureau.
Sources: Statistical Abstract of the United States 2012, t. 1170, 1212