What Is a Markdown?

What Is a Markdown?

3 Min.

In finance, markdown is the difference between the highest current bid price among dealers and the lower price a dealer charges a customer. A spread is obtained by subtracting the price on the inside market from the price a dealer charges retail customers. A markdown is the spread obtained when it is negative; it is called a markup when it is positive. Markups are more common than markdowns because market makers can usually get more favorable prices than retail customers.


In finance, a markdown signifies the existing variance between the foremost ongoing bid value among market dealers for security and the reduced cost at which a dealer invoices a client. On occasions, dealers opt to propose reduced prices to invigorate trading activities. The underlying concept is to counterbalance potential deficits through supplementary commissions.

Markdowns Explained

Within the finance domain, bid prices epitomize the sum potential buyers proffer for acquisition. Correspondingly, ask prices denote the figures at which vendors express a willingness to concede. The variance between the most elevated bid price and the most minimal ask price constitutes the bid-offer differential.

The intramural market encapsulates the exchange of a distinct security transpiring amidst market makers, characterized by their adherence to predefined criteria. Typically, the intramural market features diminished valuations and narrower differentials relative to the retail investor market.

Markdowns vs. Markups

Disparities between the valuation within the internal market and the rate imposed by a retailer on their clientele culminate in a pricing differential. This differential is termed a markdown when negative and a markup when positive.

Markups are frequently observed due to the market makers' ability to secure more advantageous valuations compared to retail consumers. These market players engage in bulk securities purchases and leverage the enhanced liquidity of internal markets.

Yet, scenarios do emerge, leading to markdown instances. Consider a municipal bond release that garners less demand than anticipated by a dealer. In such cases, a price reduction may be necessary to expedite inventory clearance. Dealers perceive markdowns as a strategy to stimulate trading volume, potentially offsetting losses through commissions.

Price Differences and Confidentiality in Financial Dealings

It's crucial to emphasize that financial institutions are not obliged to reveal markups and markdowns in principal transactions, leading to potential inconspicuousness for investors regarding price discrepancies. This kind of transaction transpires when a dealer vends a security from its own account, assuming the risk therein. On the other hand, an agency transaction occurs when a broker facilitates a trade connecting a client with another entity.

In the United States, many enterprises amalgamate the roles of broker and dealer, forming broker-dealer firms. Upon acquiring a security via a broker-dealer, the financial transaction may adopt the form of either a principal or agency transaction.

Broker-dealers are mandated to disclose the execution method within the trade confirmation, encompassing any associated commissions. However, the mandate does not extend to disclosing markups or markdowns, barring specific scenarios.

Excessive Spreads

A conventional threshold for regulators designates markups and markdowns exceeding 5% as potentially unjustifiable, albeit merely serving as a guiding measure. Justifications for markdowns surpassing 5% can be substantiated considering the prevalent market milieu. Pertinent market conditions encompass the security's nature, the dealer's historical pattern of price adjustments, and the security's valuation.

Competitive pressure within financial markets prompts adept brokers to maintain spreads well below exorbitant thresholds. Escalated spreads tend to arise predominantly in the realm of thinly traded securities.


Markdowns, reflective of the differential between the highest dealer bid and customer charges, represent a mechanism to stimulate trading and recuperate potential losses through additional commissions. Conversely, markups, driven by market makers' advantageous valuations, dominate due to their favorable pricing position.

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