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Means by which buyers and sellers are brought into contact with each other and goods and services are exchanged. The term originally referred to a place where products were bought and sold; today a market is any arena, however abstract or far-reaching, in which buyers and sellers make transactions. The commodity exchanges in London and New York, for example, are international markets in which dealers communicate by telephone and computer links as well as through direct contact. Markets trade not only in tangible commodities such as grain and livestock but also in financial instruments such as securities and currencies. Classical economists developed the theory of perfect competition, in which they imagined free markets as places where large numbers of buyers and sellers communicated easily with each other and traded in commodities that were readily transferable; prices in such markets were determined only by supply and demand. Since the 1930s, economists have focused more often on the theory of imperfect competition, in which supply and demand are not the only factors that influence the operations of the market. In imperfect competition the number of sellers or buyers is limited, rival products are differentiated (by design, quality, brand name, etc.), and various obstacles hinder new producers' entry into the market.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on market, visit Britannica.com.