Electronic Trading

Electronic Trading

5.53k followers10 symbols Watchlist by Motif Investing

Technological advancements and the demand for low-cost, fast trade executions could drive growth for electronic trading companies.

10 symbols

  • Can MarketAxess (MKTX) Keep the Earnings Surprise Streak Alive?

    Can MarketAxess (MKTX) Keep the Earnings Surprise Streak Alive?

    MarketAxess (MKTX) has an impressive earnings surprise history and currently possesses the right combination of the two key ingredients for a likely beat in its next quarterly report.

  • CME Group Reports Soft June & Q2 Volumes, Shares Decline

    CME Group Reports Soft June & Q2 Volumes, Shares Decline

    CME Group's (CME) average daily volume for June and second-quarter 2020 decreases primarily due to lower volumes across most of its product lines.

  • Cboe Global Buys EuroCCP, Expands European Equities Business

    Cboe Global Buys EuroCCP, Expands European Equities Business

    Cboe Global (CBOE) acquires equities clearing house, EuroCCP to expand its European equities business and to launch a futures and options market.

  • Here's Why You Should Retain Globe Life in Your Portfolio

    Here's Why You Should Retain Globe Life in Your Portfolio

    Globe Life (GL) is poised to benefit from high premium growth, lower debt level, offset by higher expenses.

  • Interactive Brokers' June DARTs Improve on Volatile Markets

    Interactive Brokers' June DARTs Improve on Volatile Markets

    Steadily rising DARTs are likely to support Interactive Brokers' (IBKR) revenues, going forward.

  • ICE’s Global Energy Markets Reach Record Open Interest as Participants Navigate Challenging Markets
    Business Wire

    ICE’s Global Energy Markets Reach Record Open Interest as Participants Navigate Challenging Markets

    Intercontinental Exchange (NYSE:ICE), a leading operator of global exchanges and clearing houses and provider of data and listings services, continues to attract record levels of open interest across its energy markets. ICE reached record open interest in Total Energy futures of 32.5 million contracts on June 25, 2020, contributing to a year-over-year increase of 19% in Total Energy open interest. Open interest in natural gas, one of the key drivers of these records, stood at a record 16.4 million contracts, including open interest in ICE’s U.S. Basis contracts of more than 10.1 million contracts as of June 30, 2020.

  • Were Hedge Funds Right About Piling Into CME Group Inc (CME)?
    Insider Monkey

    Were Hedge Funds Right About Piling Into CME Group Inc (CME)?

    We at Insider Monkey have gone over 821 13F filings that hedge funds and prominent investors are required to file by the SEC The 13F filings show the funds' and investors' portfolio positions as of March 31st, near the height of the coronavirus market crash. We are almost done with the second quarter. Investors decided […]

  • Were Hedge Funds Right About Piling Into Intercontinental Exchange Inc (ICE)?
    Insider Monkey

    Were Hedge Funds Right About Piling Into Intercontinental Exchange Inc (ICE)?

    We at Insider Monkey have gone over 821 13F filings that hedge funds and prominent investors are required to file by the SEC The 13F filings show the funds' and investors' portfolio positions as of March 31st, near the height of the coronavirus market crash. We are almost done with the second quarter. Investors decided […]

  • Buy Nasdaq Stock As the Tech Boom Accelerates

    Buy Nasdaq Stock As the Tech Boom Accelerates

    The market has had an astounding 2020 so far, and nowhere was this more true than in the tech sector. People are using tech more than ever in all facets of life. That, in turn, is powering a huge run in tech stocks. Yet the exchange where all this is happening, the Nasdaq (NASDAQ:NDAQ), is barely up. In fact, Nasdaq stock is essentially flat since February.Source: Shutterstock In a gold rush, there's great money to be made selling mining equipment. Similarly, if you're going to have a boom in growth companies, Nasdaq is going to get its share of the pie.Historically, it certainly has. The Nasdaq's earnings have more the doubled over the past six years as stocks have rallied. And now, with tech making another surge higher to record levels, it's an ideal time to get long the stock exchange where the magic is happening.InvestorPlace - Stock Market News, Stock Advice & Trading Tips Nasdaq: It's More Diversified Than You RealizeAt first glance, you might assume that Nasdaq is a simple business. It earns money from companies that list on the exchange, right? And yes, that's true. However, it does far more than that.In fact, the Nasdaq has four major revenue streams. According to its latest annual report, the largest segment, market services, accounts for just 36% of revenues. You also have information services at 31%, corporate services at 20%, and market technology bringing in the other 13%. That's an outstanding level of internal diversification. * 7 Utilities Stocks to Buy With Reassuring DividendsA stock exchange such as Nasdaq gets paid from activities that facilitate trading, from corporate events such as initial public offerings, and also information services such as selling data to brokerages and trading firms. On top of that, Nasdaq has built an ancillary business selling related financial technology and service products.The most exciting of the bunch right now is the data business. The Nasdaq (and the other stock exchanges) are arms dealers in the ever-escalating war among different algorithmic trading shops and high frequency trading firms.These active traders need the best data and are willing to pay heavily for it. That data, in turn, is a natural monopoly, as there are very few national stock exchanges, and Nasdaq in particular has a bunch of proprietary data. The Core Business Is Humming AlongWhile data is obviously a hot market right now, given the rise of high frequency trading, the core market services business is also good. Just look around. The Nasdaq composite just hit a new all-time high a few weeks ago, despite the coronavirus.It's not hard to see why, as tech stocks are flying. Cloud and software-as-a-service are particularly in favor; many names in those sectors have doubled or more since the March lows.This is good for bringing more trading activity and other related business. And that's not all. Don't forget that a major reason capital markets exist, after all, is to raise money for companies. When markets are booming that means you're going to see far more IPOs and also secondary offerings in existing equities.Who gets paid when a new tech stock sells its shares to the public? If you said the Nasdaq's shareholders, you're catching on. Nasdaq Stock Is Attractively PricedIt's not hard to find solid growth companies in the current marketplace. In fact, with all the problems that many other sectors are having, investors are rushing into the technology sector. However, it's much rarer to find a reasonably priced growth stock today.However, Nasdaq stock is still available at a fine price. Nasdaq earned $4.63 a share in 2019, and analysts forecast that it would earn more than $5.50 in 2020. We'll see if that comes through or not, given the economic shock. In any case, shares have a forward price-earnings ratio in the low 20s. That's a great level for Nasdaq. Consider that Nasdaq has grown its earnings 14% per year compounded over the past 10 years.Nasdaq has also been a massive dividend growth machine. The company initiated its dividend in 2012 at 39 cents a share per year. Since then, it has more than quadrupled its dividend, as it paid out $1.85 per share last year. With a payout ratio of less than 40%, there's more room for outsized dividend growth -- particularly if the 14% per year EPS growth rate continues as well. Nasdaq Stock VerdictNasdaq is an excellent opportunity at current prices. In fact, it's worth asking why the stock price isn't higher already, given the compelling growth rate.I suspect Nasdaq is undervalued now because investors are falsely comparing it to brokerages. The brokers have gotten into a pricing war, with commissions falling to $0 per trade at many places. This has caused stocks like Charles Schwab (NYSE:SCHW) to underperform.In theory, trading and data fees for the stock exchanges could plummet as well. In practice, this is unlikely as it is far harder to create new stock exchanges that have critical mass. The entrenched players have economic motive to preserve the status quo.Additionally, some investors fear that Fintech start-ups will disrupt the stock exchanges. So far, however, most start-ups aimed at finance have failed to transform existing systems. Things such as credit card companies, which were supposed to be obsolete by now, instead keep making record profits.Long story short, Nasdaq is riding two big waves going forward. The first is a fundamental rise in financial sophistication. Traders are using more and more data, and they have to buy it from a few select vendors, including Nasdaq.The second is that tech stocks are booming. And that may continue for quite a while as the economy reshapes itself in a post Covid-19 world.All that adds up to record earnings for Nasdaq and a stock price that will keep moving higher.Ian Bezek has written more than 1,000 articles for InvestorPlace.com and Seeking Alpha. He also worked as a Junior Analyst for Kerrisdale Capital, a $300 million New York City-based hedge fund. You can reach him on Twitter at @irbezek. At the time of this writing, he owned NDAQ stock. More From InvestorPlace * Why Everyone Is Investing in 5G All WRONG * America's 1 Stock Picker Reveals His Next 1,000% Winner * Revolutionary Tech Behind 5G Rollout Is Being Pioneered By This 1 Company * Radical New Battery Could Dismantle Oil Markets The post Buy Nasdaq Stock As the Tech Boom Accelerates appeared first on InvestorPlace.

  • CME Group Reports June and Second-Quarter 2020 Market Statistics
    PR Newswire

    CME Group Reports June and Second-Quarter 2020 Market Statistics

    CME Group, the world's leading and most diverse derivatives marketplace, today reported its June and second-quarter 2020 market statistics, showing it reached average daily volume (ADV) of 17.6 million contracts during the quarter and 17.1 million contracts during the month of June. Open interest at the end of June was 101 million contracts. Market statistics are available online in greater detail at https://cmegroupinc.gcs-web.com/monthly-volume.

  • Reuters

    Singapore watchdog raises concerns about LSE's proposed Refinitiv acquisition

    Singapore's competition authority said on Thursday it had raised concerns about the London Stock Exchange's proposed $27 billion acquisition of data and analytics company Refinitiv in an initial review. The Competition and Consumer Commission of Singapore (CCCS) said it would need to consider in more detail the effect of the transaction in a second phase review. Thomson Reuters, which owns Reuters News, has a 45% stake in Refinitiv.

  • Interactive Brokers Group Reports Brokerage Metrics and Other Financial Information for June 2020, includes Reg.-NMS Execution Statistics
    Business Wire

    Interactive Brokers Group Reports Brokerage Metrics and Other Financial Information for June 2020, includes Reg.-NMS Execution Statistics

    Interactive Brokers Group, Inc. (Nasdaq: IBKR) an automated global electronic broker, today reported its Electronic Brokerage monthly performance metrics for June.

  • BGC Partners Lowers Revenue Guidance for Q2 Amid Concerns

    BGC Partners Lowers Revenue Guidance for Q2 Amid Concerns

    BGC Partners (BGCP) expects revenues in the second quarter to be slightly below its previously mentioned range due to weaker industry volumes.

  • GlobeNewswire

    Cowen to Hold Conference Call to Discuss Second Quarter 2020 Financial Results

    NEW YORK, July 01, 2020 -- Cowen Inc. (NASDAQ:COWN) (“Cowen” or the “Company”) will host a conference call on Tuesday, July 28, 2020 at 9:00 AM ET to discuss the Company's.

  • Ipsen presents Phase I/II clinical data evaluating liposomal irinotecan (Onivyde®) as an investigational first-line combination treatment for metastatic pancreatic cancer at the ESMO World Congress on Gastrointestinal Cancer
    Business Wire

    Ipsen presents Phase I/II clinical data evaluating liposomal irinotecan (Onivyde®) as an investigational first-line combination treatment for metastatic pancreatic cancer at the ESMO World Congress on Gastrointestinal Cancer

    Ipsen (Euronext: IPN; ADR: IPSEY), today announced the primary analysis of the Phase I/II study evaluating the investigational use of irinotecan liposome injection (Onivyde®) in combination with 5-fluorouracil/leucovorin (5-FU/LV) and oxaliplatin (OX) together, known as NALIRIFOX in study patients with previously untreated, unresectable, locally advanced and metastatic pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) during a late-breaking oral presentation at the ESMO World Congress on Gastrointestinal Cancer (WCGI), 1–5 July 2020. The results include safety and efficacy analyses from the multicenter, open-label, study consisting of dose-exploration safety run-in (traditional 3+3 design) to confirm the maximum tolerated dose and appropriate dose regimen for NALIRIFOX in the dose-expansion phase.1

  • GlobeNewswire

    Nasdaq Welcomed 69 IPOs and Five Exchange Transfers in the First Six Months of 2020

    NEW YORK, July 01, 2020 -- Nasdaq (Nasdaq: NDAQ) announced today that in the first half of 2020 it welcomed 69 initial public offerings (IPOs), raising a total of $17.4.

  • Reuters

    Cboe to launch Dutch derivatives hub in 2021

    Cboe Global Markets said on Wednesday it will launch derivatives trading and clearing at its new European hub in Amsterdam next year as it completes a costlier-than-expected takeover of EuroCCP clearing house. The Chicago-based group had already opened a share trading hub in the Dutch financial capital in October 2019 to avoid Brexit disrupting European share trading operations in London. It will build on the hub to offer trading in equity futures and options based on six Cboe Europe stock indices in the first half of 2021, with plans to add more benchmarks later.

  • Cboe Global Markets Completes EuroCCP Acquisition, Plans to Launch Cboe Europe Derivatives in First Half of 2021
    PR Newswire

    Cboe Global Markets Completes EuroCCP Acquisition, Plans to Launch Cboe Europe Derivatives in First Half of 2021

    Cboe Global Markets, Inc. (Cboe: CBOE), one of the world's largest exchange holding companies, today announced it has completed its acquisition of EuroCCP, a leading pan-European equities clearing house. The acquisition paves the way for the planned launch of Cboe Europe Derivatives, a new Amsterdam-based futures and options market, in the first half of 2021, subject to regulatory approvals.

  • Reuters

    Pandemic must not stop move to scrap Libor, say regulators

    Disruption to markets caused by the COVID-19 pandemic must not stop banks from ending their use of the Libor interest rate benchmark by the end of 2021, the Financial Stability Board said on Wednesday. "Libor transition remains an essential task that will strengthen the global financial system," said the FSB, which coordinates financial rules for the Group of 20 Economies (G20). The FSB said it would publish a report later this month on how to deal with remaining challenges to ending the use of a benchmark that banks were fined billions of dollars for trying to rig.

  • Reuters

    European exchanges oppose shorter stock trading day sought by London firms

    Shorter hours would not be in the best interests of investors or stock markets, European bourses said on Wednesday, dashing hopes at banks and investment firms in London of cutting 90 minutes from the trading day. The Federation of European Securities Exchanges (FESE) said shorter hours would be a move in the wrong direction. The current European trading day is 0900-1730 continental European time, longer than in Asia or Wall Street.

  • GlobeNewswire

    Delisting of Securities of Tuesday Morning Corp.; Reebonz Holding Limited; Taronis Technologies, Inc.; Extraction Oil & Gas, Inc.; Synthesis Energy Systems, Inc.; and Luckin Coffee Inc. from The Nasdaq Stock Market

    The Nasdaq Stock Market announced today that it will delist the common stock of Tuesday Morning Corp.   Tuesday Morning Corp.’s common stock was suspended on June 8, 2020 and has not traded on Nasdaq since that time. Nasdaq also announced today that it will delist the ordinary shares of Reebonz Holding Limited. Reebonz Holding Limited’s ordinary shares were suspended on April 30, 2020 and have not traded on Nasdaq since that time.

  • BGC Partners Updates its Outlook for the Second Quarter of 2020
    PR Newswire

    BGC Partners Updates its Outlook for the Second Quarter of 2020

    BGC Partners, Inc. (NASDAQ: BGCP) ("BGC Partners" or "BGC" or the "Company"), a leading global brokerage and financial technology company, today announced that it has updated its outlook for the quarter ending June 30, 2020.

  • 3 ‘Covid-Defensive’ Stocks to Consider When Markets Nose Dive

    3 ‘Covid-Defensive’ Stocks to Consider When Markets Nose Dive

    Volatility rules the day, as the markets have seesawed between gains and losses in recent sessions, and investors understandably nervous. With coronavirus cases rising – in the wake of state reopenings and the wave of race riots that have recently inflamed the nation – there’s a growing possibility that we’ll face further lockdowns in the future.Yes, Administration officials – notably Treasury Secretary Mnuchin – have made statements that the country cannot afford another full economic shutdown, but those statements came before the rise in COVID-19 cases. If cases continue to rise, so will the political pressure to lock down – and that will bring severe economic consequences. The upcoming November election just throws another unpredictable factor into the mix.So, it’s time for defensive stocks. These are stocks that will provide your portfolio with a degree of insulation, protection from the negative chances inherent in the markets. Sometimes that protection comes in the form of high dividends, sometimes in the form of countertrend share appreciation, and sometimes it comes from a solid business foundation and cash-flow.With that in mind, we’ve opened the TipRanks database to find three stocks that fit the defensive profile. Each exemplifies one of those defensive modes; let’s find out what else makes them compelling in today’s environment.Peloton Interactive (PTON)We’ll start with Peloton, the exercise equipment manufacturer. The company gained its initial notoriety when it started 7 years ago, using crowdfunding through Kickstarter to raise initial capital. The company’s Christmas ad campaign last year also got people talking, although not quite the way the company had wanted. Still, any press is good press, and Peloton’s name got into the news.Peloton has benefited from the unpredictable nature of contingency. The company sells home exercise equipment by online and mail order, with products delivered directly to the customer’s address. It’s a model tailor-made to succeed during the corona crisis, when homebound people wanted to stay active but couldn’t get out. To this end, PTON shares skyrocketed over 100% year-to-date. Two key points from the company’s fiscal Q3 earnings report, released in May, underscore these points. First, quarterly sales during the lockdowns hit $524 million, for a 66% year-over-year gain. And second, the company hosted an online exercise class that drew 23,000 streaming participants – it’s largest audience ever. Along with the share appreciation, these points show the strength of PTON in today’s climate.Needham's Laura Martin sees a clear path for Peloton’s continued success. The 5-star analyst describes it thus: “[We] think PTON is a great place for investors to hide because we expect: a) strong demand for PTON bikes indefinitely because its wealthy target market will remain hesitant to return to public gyms for years; b) many large residential buildings in cities have closed their in-building gyms…; c) PTON user data shows workouts/month grow over time, so PTON's biggest value-creation problem was adoption/buying the bike, which COVID-19 is solving…”Martin raised her price target on PTON by 30%, to $65. Her new target suggests an upside potential of 11%, and supports her Buy rating on the stock. (To watch Martin’s track record, click here)Overall, Peloton gets a Strong Buy rating form the analyst consensus, based on 22 recent ratings. These break down to 20 Buys, and one each Hold and Sell. (See Peloton stock analysis on TipRanks)MRC Global (MRC)Next on our list is a parts supplier to the energy industry. It’s common to think of hydrocarbons as the end point of energy investing – but the industry has spawned a whole network of support companies, without which not one erg of power could be produced. MRC is the world’s largest provider of piping, valves, and fittings, along with other infrastructure products, to the energy industry and its midstream partners. MRC is small-cap company, with only $506 million market capitalization, but it occupies an absolutely essential niche.That essential niche helped the company to a 4% sequential revenue gain in Q1 2020, with the top line hitting $794 million. That number was down 18% yoy, due to decreased demand across the board during the coronavirus lockdowns. Earning showed similar mixed results, coming in at 4 cents per share. This was far down from Q1 2019’s 14-cent EPS, but it beat the 5-cent net-loss forecast by a wide margin.Douglas Becker, 4-star analyst with Northland Securities, sees MRC shares as a solid buy right now, noting: “MRC is a defensive way to play energy and the general re-opening thesis. The distribution model offers counter-cyclical cash flow generation and low capital intensity, while MRC's end markets are diversified within energy and industrial value chain. We see reward outweighing downside risk by about 1.5:1."In line with his upbeat outlook, Becker gives MRC a Buy rating and his $7.50 price target indicates a 28% upside potential for the coming year. (To watch Becker’s track record, click here)Overall, MRC’s Moderate Buy consensus rating is based on 2 recent reviews – and both agree that this is a Buying proposition. Shares are currently priced at $5.91, and the $7 average target implies an upside of 18% in the coming months. (See MRC stock analysis on TipRanks)Virtu Financial (VIRT)Last on our list today is Virtu Financial, a $4.5 billion financial services company. Virtu offers a huge array of services, including liquidity sourcing, trading products, analytics, and multi-dealer platforms. Virtu’s customers can use the service to trade in equities, commodities, currencies, and more.VIRT’s Q1 earnings hit $2.05 per share, beating estimates by a fantastic 35%. The high-speed, online trading platform attracted home-bound customers during the pandemic lockdowns, another example of a company being fortuitously positioned for changing circumstances. Revenues rose 242% year-over-year, from $228.8 million to $784.5 million.Solid earnings underlay the company’s dividend. The most recent payment, made on June 15, was 24 cents – where it has been stable since 2017. At current share prices, the yield is 4.2%, which is more than double the average yield found among S&P-listed companies, and the payout ratio is 11%, showing that the company can easily afford the payments. This is a clear incentive for defensive-minded investors.Piper Sandler analyst Richard Repetto likes Virtu as a pure defensive play, writing, “VIRT has seen strong fundamentals with strong equity volumes, and though investors likely do question the sustainability of volumes over time, on market pullbacks & increased volatility like we've seen over the past week, VIRT normally performs to the upside.” The analyst added, "While we'll wait to see full 2Q20 metrics before adjusting estimates, we believe VIRT's normalized earnings could be reset higher given the continued elelvated retail trading environment."Repetto rates the stock a Buy alongside a $29 price target, which suggests a one-year upside to VIRT of 24%. (To watch Repetto’s track record, click here)With 2 Buys and 4 Holds set in recent weeks, VIRT shares have a Moderate Buy form Wall Street’s analyst consensus. Shares are selling for $23.40, and the average price target, at $27, implies room for 15% upside growth this year. (See Virtu’s stock-price forecast on TipRanks)To find good ideas for defensive stocks trading at attractive valuations, visit TipRanks’ Best Stocks to Buy, a newly launched tool that unites all of TipRanks’ equity insights.

  • Covid-19 Shows That Scientific Journals Need to Open Up

    Covid-19 Shows That Scientific Journals Need to Open Up

    (Bloomberg Opinion) -- One big change brought on by Covid-19 is that virtually all the scientific research being produced about it is free to read. Anyone can access the many preliminary findings that scholars are posting on “preprint servers.” Data are shared openly via a multitude of different channels. Scientific journals that normally keep their articles behind formidable paywalls have been making an exception for new research about the virus, as well as much (if not all) older work relevant to it.This response to a global pandemic is heartening and may well speed that pandemic to its end. But after that, what happens with scientific communication? Will everything go back behind the journal paywalls?Well, no. Open-access advocates in academia have been pushing for decades to make more of their work publicly available and paywall-free, and in recent years they’ve been joined by the government agencies and large foundations that fund much scientific research. Covid-19 has accelerated this shift. I’m pretty sure there’s no going back. But the transition from a mostly closed system of scientific communication to a mostly open one will not be straightforward. Popular accounts often depict the move to open access as a simple toppling of a few for-profit publishers. As I have learned since writing such an account five years ago, the infrastructure around publishing, evaluating and repurposing scientific information has grown up over centuries and is not just going away.The scientific publishing industry has already proved to be, by the standards of the modern media world, impressively resilient. Its staying power is more than just a business story. The industry’s structure shapes not just how science is communicated but how it is done, affecting the career incentives of scientists, the priorities of research universities and, to a certain extent, the course of scientific progress. To understand where scientific communication is headed, you must first understand how it got to be this way.How it all beganScientific journal publishing got its start in January 1665, when French lawyer Denis de Sallo began publishing the Journal des scavans (an archaic version of “savants”), which consisted of book reviews, obituaries and legal reports, as well as scientific articles. Two months later Henry Oldenburg, a German theologian employed as secretary of the recently established Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge, started, as a for-profit side gig, a monthly publication with somewhat more focus. His Philosophical Transactions had book reviews and obits too, but the main attraction was reports of scientific discoveries and research — some from Royal Society members but most from Oldenburg’s correspondents around Europe — which Society members vetted before publication in an early form of peer review.Both journals are still being published, which tells you something about the resilience of the medium. As opposed to the books and less-formal means of scientific communication that preceded them, they performed four main functions (this list paraphrases one by industry expert Michael Mabe) that still apply today:Establishing who had an idea or performed an experiment first. Certifying quality, often through the mechanism of peer review. Recording the final, authorized versions of papers and archiving them. Disseminating papers to a targeted scholarly audience.By the late 1700s some scientists were already complaining that there were too many journals for anyone to keep up with. The solution turned out to be yet more journals, increasingly dedicated to single disciplines as science became more specialized. In the 19th century many of these emerged from the burgeoning ranks of non-profit scientific societies, such as the American Medical Association (founded in 1847) and American Chemical Society (founded in 1876), but for-profit publishers played a role, too.Early on they did so mainly in London. The Philosophical Magazine, founded in 1798 and now a journal of condensed-matter physics, became the first building block of the still-significant scientific publishing firm of Taylor & Francis. The Lancet and Nature, founded in 1823 and 1869, respectively, became the world’s two most famous commercial scientific journals. All started out as eclectic publications aimed at practitioners and general readers as much as scientists, but now are known chiefly for their peer-reviewed scientific articles.It was in Germany, though, that the modern approach to commercial journal publishing took shape. As the country became the center of scientific research in the late 1800s and early 1900s, publishers such as Springer in Berlin and Akademische Verlagsgesellschaft (Academic Press) in Leipzig produced journals for scientific societies and signed up promising young scholars to launch new, even more specialized publications. They left the article-writing and also the editorial decisions to outside scientists; the publisher’s job was to keep the editorial process moving and handle copy-editing, typesetting, printing, distribution and marketing.That tidy little business kept growing even through the hyperinflation and other ills that plagued Germany in the 1920s. Things did go backward with the Great Depression, the Nazi seizure of power and World War II, but after the war, big increases in research spending and university enrollments — first in the U.S., then elsewhere in the developed world — ushered in an entrepreneurial golden age for scientific publishing.The postwar golden ageThe Akademische Verlagsgesellschaft was under Communist control in East Germany and missed this boom, but former employees founded Academic Press and Interscience in New York, and a former intern built North-Holland Publishing in the Netherlands. Springer, meanwhile, got back on its feet with help from a Czech-born British Army officer who was detached to the press section of the British Embassy in Berlin after the war. The officer, who had taken the name Robert Maxwell, then started a joint venture with Springer in the U.K. that he later took control of, rechristened Pergamon Press and rapidly expanded. Maxwell wined and dined scientists around the world and launched International Journal of This after International Journal of That, before using the company to launch himself into a star-crossed career as full-fledged media mogul.The specialized journals these companies started often had circulations in the low thousands or even hundreds. So production costs per copy were quite high, even without paying the authors. Before World War II, many smaller society journals made ends meet by actually charging authors per-page fees to publish; by contrast, the commercial publishers launching new journals after the war were able to get by on subscription charges that university librarians, particularly in the U.S., were willing to pay. Library budgets were growing, professors who published in the journals insisted that their universities subscribe and favorable exchange rates kept the prices charged by European publishers within reason in dollar terms.The floating of the world’s major currencies in 1971, and the economic troubles that followed, brought complaints about high journal prices and kicked off a more complicated era for the business overall. New journals kept popping up, but the ranks of journal publishers began to consolidate. Leading that process was a relative newcomer to the field: Elsevier, a Dutch publisher best known in its home country for its encyclopedia, newspapers and eponymous weekly newsmagazine. Elsevier (pronounced el-suh-veer) began to dabble in scientific publishing in the 1930s, started its first English-language journal in 1947 and became a major force in the field after merging its scientific arm with North-Holland in 1970.Soon after that, it found the leader who would drive it to the top. Pierre Vinken was a neurosurgeon who became a part-time editor at the non-profit medical abstracts service Excerpta Medica in the 1950s, moved into a full-time executive role in the 1960s and then persuaded his colleagues to convert to for-profit status so they could sell out to Elsevier in 1971. He became head of Elsevier’s science division in 1972 and of the whole company in 1979, bringing a relentless focus on profit maximization and shareholder value — a recent biography is titled (in Dutch) “Against Idealism.”Scientific journals were Elsevier’s most profitable business, so increasing their number became key. Elsevier picked up Pergamon and its 418 journals from a cash-strapped Maxwell in 1991, then went on to add the Lancet and Academic Press to its portfolio, among many others. It merged with British publisher Reed in 1992 and today is the chief profit center of the most profitable and valuable media company that hardly anybody has heard of: Relx Plc boasts a market capitalization more than six times that of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., three times that of ViacomCBS Inc. and 36% higher than Thomson Reuters Corp.In a report published last year, veteran industry analyst Claudio Aspesi estimated Elsevier’s share of the worldwide academic journal market at 17.5%. Springer Nature, the product of a 2015 merger between Springer and a number of scientific publishing properties owned by its fellow German publisher Holtzbrinck (including the aforementioned journal Nature), was No. 2 at around 13%. No. 3 at about 9% was John Wiley and Sons Inc., the venerable New York area publisher of Herman Melville and Edgar Allan Poe, which expanded into scientific journals when it bought Interscience in 1961. Aspesi didn’t calculate a market share for Taylor & Francis, now a subsidiary of Informa Plc, but it’s generally seen as rounding out the industry’s Big Four. Together, they control between 40% and 50% of the market.Measuring impactA fifth key corporate power in scientific communication is Clarivate Plc, which is not a journal publisher but a provider of what it calls “insights and analytics to accelerate the pace of innovation.” Spun off from Thomson Reuters in 2016, it derives most of its revenue from a science division that has its roots in a 1955 Science article by American chemist-turned-librarian Eugene Garfield. Garfield believed that keeping track of the postwar explosion in scientific research required new approaches that the rise of the computer would enable. He founded a company to do this work, the Institute for Scientific Information, which Thomson acquired in 1992. The metrics it created ended up shaping science and the world in all sorts of unexpected ways.One key concept in Garfield’s 1955 article was what he called the “impact factor,” a measure of influence based on how frequently an article was cited by others. In 1972 he unveiled his first ranking of journals by impact factor, with the Journal of the American Chemical Society coming in first. Such a metric, he mused at the time, might help librarians in deciding which journals to subscribe to and journal editors in looking for “objective and timely measures of their success.”Editors working for commercial publishers have certainly taken heed. For-profit journals occupied 14 of the top 20 spots in the 2019 impact factor rankings, as opposed to just four in 1972. Cell Publications, founded by a molecular biologist and former Nature editor in 1974 and sold to Elsevier in 1999 for a rumored $100 million, is often held up as the apotheosis of the impact-maximization approach. But nowadays, Nature and its many spinoffs (Nature Reviews Drug Discovery, Nature Materials, Nature Energy, etc.) dominate the rankings.Also paying attention to Garfield’s work were Sergey Brin and Larry Page, who based the PageRank algorithm that spawned Google on nearly identical premises. So, for that matter, was Elsevier, which has built up its own set of research metrics to compete with Clarivate. Several smaller corporate players have entered the field as well.The metrics these companies churn out now play a huge role in determining academic success. Hiring, tenure and grant decisions often turn on how many articles a scholar has published in high-impact journals, and international university rankings rely heavily on faculty publication and citation metrics as well. The measures pioneered by Garfield are surely more objective and fairer than previous gauges of prestige and success, but even he came to rue their overuse. Too heavy a reliance on performance metrics of any kind can shortchange creativity, innovation and other hard-to-measure things. The reliance on citation metrics in particular appears to discourage researchers from publishing negative or inconclusive results, producing an increasingly skewed picture of scientific knowledge and possibly encouraging scientific fraud. Big moneyAlthough many in academia are uneasy about the ways in which private companies have come to shape scientific communication and research evaluation, what seems to spur the most vocal opposition is the money they make doing it. The overall market for scientific and medical information adds up to about $25 billion in revenue a year, according to a 2018 report from the International Association of Scientific, Technical and Medical Publishers. Journal publishing accounts for $10 billion — or about 2% of overall spending on academic research, Belgian open-science expert Jean-Claude Burgelman estimated earlier this year.That makes the industry sound kind of small, but it is quite profitable. Elsevier had an operating-profit margin of 37% last year, which helps explain the high valuation of its parent company. At Taylor & Francis the operating profit margin was 29%, at Wiley’s research publishing arm 27% and at Springer Nature (as reported in the prospectus for a canceled 2018 initial public offering) 23%. Just for comparison, the 2019 operating margin at famously profitable Google was 26%.Being profitable is not a crime. Making those profits while paying authors and peer-reviewers nothing and many journal editors little to nothing, though, is a source of endless amazement and enragement in academia and beyond. When French materials scientist Sylvain Deville asked on Twitter in January for people to “Explain academic publishing to me like I am Five,” he got a lot of responses like this one from Ned Potter, a librarian at the University of York in the U.K.:Cows make milk. They milk themselves. Other cows check the milk (for free). Cows - get this - PAY THE FARMER to take the milk away. Then the farmer (you won’t believe this, honestly) sells the milk *back to the cows.*It’s not exactly the same cows. Those that produce the milk are professors and other researchers; those that buy it are generally librarians. Also, at the multidisciplinary journals Nature and Science, as well as most leading biomedical journals, the milkers (aka editors) are full-time staffers with substantial salaries. But the overall picture of universities handing over research papers for free and then paying to read them is correct. U.S. college and university libraries spent $2.3 billion on subscriptions for scientific journals and other publications in the 2015-2016 academic year, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, or 28% of their total expenditures. In 1993-1994 that was $690.4 million, 17% of total expenditures and about $1.2 billion in current dollars.This trajectory is not the one that many foresaw as the internet rose to ubiquity in the 1990s. Tim Berners-Lee’s original proposal for the World Wide Web intended it as a means of better communication among scientists; it was widely assumed that most such communication would be free of charge, and that the scientific publishing business was headed for major disruption. A now-legendary 1995 Forbes article about Elsevier was headlined, “The Internet’s First Victim?”It most definitely was not. Instead, Elsevier kept buying journals and investing heavily in their digitization — and other big publishers followed. They began offering “big deals” in which, as one university librarian described it in 2001, “libraries agree to buy electronic access to all of a commercial publisher’s journals for a price based on current payments to that publisher, plus some increment.” Along with Jstor, created by the Mellon Foundation in the late 1990s to digitize back issues of journals published by scholarly societies and university presses, these deals expanded the amount of research at the fingertips of university students and faculty, while slashing the cost of storing paper journals. University libraries would appear to be getting more for their money today than they did in the mid-1990s.Still, it’s a lot of money. The University of California system’s recently expired Elsevier subscription cost a reported $10 million a year, and many of the journals included in such big deals are seldom read. The digitization of journal content has also made the journals’ high cost apparent to lots of people who aren’t university librarians. Anyone with an internet connection can find just about any article in the archives of Elsevier, Springer Nature, Wiley, Taylor & Francis and other publishers, but without possessing the right university library card (not every school subscribes to every publication) or a steep per-article payment, you usually can’t read past the opening paragraphs.Against paywallsThese digital paywalls have inspired major efforts to get around them. One of the best known, because of its tragic end, was that of internet activist Aaron Swartz, who downloaded millions of Jstor articles from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s network starting in September 2010, intending to make them free to all. After being caught in early 2011, he gave up the downloaded documents, and Jstor asked that no charges be pressed. But the U.S. Attorney’s office in Boston plowed ahead, and Swartz killed himself in 2013 while awaiting trial. By then, Kazakhstani computer programmer Alexandra Elbakyan had started an effort to make all academic-journal articles free to read via SciHub, a self-proclaimed “pirate website” that operates outside the reach of Western authorities and publishers.There’s a growing number of legal paths around the paywalls, too. Public sharing of the aforementioned preprints (unedited early drafts) started with physicists’ ArXiv server in 1991, was followed by other disciplines over the decades and has now exploded in response to Covid-19. With Harvard leading the way in 2008, universities have also established policies in which professors are expected to assign joint copyright to the institution (they can opt out) when they publish an article in a journal, and post a copy in its open-access repository. Social networks for researchers, such as ResearchGate and Academia.edu, allow scholars to make their own published works available for easy search and downloading, a practice some big publishers have made their peace with while others have not. Funding agencies in Europe and the U.S. now require that publications based on research they paid for be made freely available after an embargo of six or 12 months. And paywalled journals often make public the appendices and datasets that go with their articles, which can be of more interest to other researchers than the articles themselves.Still, the pressure to make all research publications free — or at least all those enabled by substantial government or foundation funding — keeps growing. Coalition S, a European Commission project backed by the research-funding agencies of 12 European countries, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Wellcome Trust, is pushing for all the research its members fund to be published open access, with no embargo, by next year. The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy is contemplating a similar shift for the U.S.Paying for free articlesOf course, publishing scientific articles, even if you don’t pay the authors or the peer reviewers or in some cases even editors, still costs money. Publishing veteran Kent Anderson’s has an occasionally updated list of the “102 Things Journal Publishers Do,” many of which are less-than-earthshaking — “depositing content and data,” “pay for and comply with terms of publisher insurance policies,” etc. — but do add up. Even preprint servers, which perform only a few of the 102 functions, cost a couple million dollars a year to run.So far preprint servers have mostly relied on donations to pay the bills, which may not be the most sustainable financial model. Open-access journals, meanwhile, live off what are called article processing charges — a modern version of the page fees that helped sustain journals before World War II.Two of the most prominent all-open-access journals are the Public Library of Open Science’s PLoS One and Springer Nature’s Nature Communications, both multi-disciplinary publications with a biomedical tilt. Publishing a research article in the first will set you back $1,695; in the second, $5,380. For those funded by the likes of the National Institutes of Health or the Gates Foundation, or who have jobs at well-endowed universities, neither of these fees represents much of a barrier, and both journals waive fees for researchers from the very poorest countries. But a sizable minority of scholars do get stuck with the bill or simply can’t pay, and in general those from universities, countries and academic disciplines with fewer resources struggle the most.The reliance on article fees also tilts journals toward publishing more articles, and there are “predatory journals” that will publish anything as long you pay. But the divergent fees at PLoS One and Nature Communications are a sign that even legitimate open-access journals can take very different approaches. PLoS One accepts two-thirds of the papers submitted to it, according to industry analyst Christos Petrou, and publishes two-and-a-half times as many as Nature Communications. This allows Nature Communications to exercise greater quality control, resulting in its articles having four to five times the average impact (as measured by citations) as those in PLoS One — which has quite intentionally not aimed to maximize its impact factor, welcoming research papers that report negative or inconclusive results. Career-minded scholars seem to still care about impact, though. Submissions to PLoS One have been declining, and the Public Library of Open Science, which also publishes six more specialized open-access journals, reported a deficit of $6 million on revenue of $32 million in its 2018 financial statement.To allow for such differences in business models, the funders in Coalition S are not planning to cap the article fees they’re willing to pay, but they are demanding transparency from publishers about costs, with the goal of keeping journal profit margins down. Another approach, adopted by multiple European national university systems, is to replace Big Deal journal-subscription contracts with similarly priced “transformative” deals, in which publishers agree to publish their faculty’s research without paywalls or article fees, while continuing to grant subscription access to paywalled articles.In the more dispersed U.S. academic landscape, such deals can be harder to arrange. A few U.S. universities have entered into them, with the biggest North American transformative deal so far announced recently between Springer Nature and the University of California system. The UC system has been unable to agree on terms with Elsevier, though, and has done without direct access to new Elsevier journal articles for more than a year now. Meanwhile, other universities in the U.S. have been breaking their big deals with publishers into narrower contracts, a practice that seems likely to accelerate as Covid-driven budget cuts begin to pinch, presumably making it harder to finance a wholesale shift to open access.The shape of the open-access futureSubscriptions are a simple, time-honored and clearly sustainable way to pay for a publishing operation. The news media’s re-embrace of them, after decades of experimentation with advertising-supported business models online, is evidence that this may be even more true in the digital age. Scientific publishers are being pushed to abandon subscriptions and embrace open science for a lot of good reasons, as the Covid-19 crisis has made clear, but there will be consequences.The most perverse of those consequences, from the perspective of many open-access advocates, is an increase in the power and profits of the big commercial publishers. Clout has already begun shifting away from scientific societies, which often rely on journal subscriptions to subsidize other activities or as a perk to retain and recruit members. Many societies seem at a loss for how to proceed in an open-access environment. Several have recently handed their journal operations over to commercial publishers — a trickle that some in the industry expect to become a flood.Those commercial publishers, meanwhile, have been buying up preprint servers, academic social networks, journal-hosting platforms, research evaluation tools and other services meant to make them more essential to academia. Elsevier stopped calling itself a publisher a while ago — it’s now “a global information analytics business specializing in science and health.”In 2011 Claudio Aspesi, then an analyst at brokerage firm Sanford C. Bernstein and Co., advised clients to steer clear of Elsevier parent Relx out of fear that library budget crunches and the rise of open access would threaten profit margins. After the share price roughly doubled over the next three years, he concluded that maybe open access wasn’t as big a threat to its business as he had thought. Lately he’s been examining the industry on behalf of the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition, a pro-open access group, and finding reasons for alarm not for shareholders but for universities.In an article published in Science in May, Aspesi and MIT Press Director Amy Brand warned that Elsevier and other big publishers are positioning themselves to play ever bigger roles in measuring researchers’ productivity and universities’ quality, and possibly even to act as one-stop portals for the global exchange of information within scientific disciplines. “The dominance of a limited number of social networks, shopping services, and search engines shows us how internet platforms based on data and analytics can tend toward monopoly,” they wrote. Such concentration isn’t inevitable in scientific communication, they concluded, but preventing it will require “the academic community to act in coordination.”As anybody who’s sat through a faculty meeting knows, that’s a lot easier said than done. The commercial scientific communication industry exists in part because professors aren’t so great at collective action. It also exists because they have other things to focus on, such as their research, and there’s no reason why for-profit service providers shouldn’t continue to help scientists share and make use of that research. The challenge will be to keep the service providers from running the show.This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Justin Fox is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering business. He was the editorial director of Harvard Business Review and wrote for Time, Fortune and American Banker. He is the author of “The Myth of the Rational Market.”For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinionSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.