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The Blackwell Encyclopedic Dictionary of Finance (Blackwell Encyclopedia of Management)

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Although the basic purposes of finance, and the nature of the core instruments used in attaining them, are relatively constant, recent years have seen an explosion in complexity of both products and techniques.

A number of forces are driving this explosion. The first is internationalization encompassing a dramatic growth in the number of countries with stock markets, convertible currencies and a positive regime for foreign investors. For a number of years the more adventurous institutional and private investors have been increasing the proportion of their investments in foreign markets in general and emerging markets in particular in search of growth, higher returns and better diversification. Reflecting this, finance has begun the long process of overhauling the traditionally domestic measurement of risk and return. In the new world order in which the next generation is likely to see an unprecedented transfer of economic power and influence from slow growing developed economies to the high growth tigers in Asia and the Pacific Rim, the ability of financial markets to recognize and accommodate the changes will be a priority.

The second change has come from dramatic falls in the costs of both information and transaction processing. More information is available and it is available more quickly in more places. Improved databases allow sophisticated analysis that would have been impossible a few years ago and data intensive artificial intelligence techniques allow a much richer array of market structures to be considered. The switch to electronic systems of transactions and trading has dramatically lowered costs, allowing increased arbitrage and stimulating the widespread use of complex new derivative products and products offering potentially an infinity of combinations of underlying products. It is no exaggeration to claim that these new techniques and instruments can be used to provide a proxy for any underlying traded instrument.

This power is increasingly used in the marketplace to provide the financial community with new choices, including performance guarantees and indexed products. The development of traded instruments provides an ability to pinpoint exposures precisely and this has lead to a new science of risk management, where the net exposures of a portfolio of risky assets such as securities or bank loans can be estimated and, where required, selectively or completely hedged by buying opposite exposures in the marketplace. Not surprisingly, this encyclopedic dictionary reflects these new techniques which are inexorably creating a world in which financial assets are priced in a seamless global marketplace.

New technology has helped in selecting entries for the dictionary. A word count of titles in finance and business journals was used to identify the frequency with which particular terms appeared and this was used as a primary guide to the priority and length of entries. To accommodate new topics such as real options that are only just emerging into the literature, we also included some entries where interest was growing rapidly towards the end of the search period.

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