What Is an Affirmative Obligation in Finance?

What Is an Affirmative Obligation in Finance?

3 Min.

Affirmative obligation in finance pertains to the responsibilities of New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) market makers, also known as specialists. These specialists are mandated to ensure orderly trading by providing liquidity when public supply or demand for security is insufficient.


In the realm of finance, the term "affirmative obligation" refers to the duties assigned to market makers operating within the NYSE. These market makers, referred to as specialists, play a crucial role in maintaining the smooth functioning of the stock market. The core affirmative obligation of NYSE specialists is to ensure liquidity when situations arise where the available supply or demand for security is inadequate to facilitate well-organized trading.

Mechanism of Affirmative Obligations

During trading activities, it is not uncommon for the demand for certain securities to surpass their supply, or vice versa. In either scenario, NYSE market makers are bound by their affirmative obligations to buy or sell shares to preserve an orderly trading environment.

In instances where demand significantly outweighs supply, market makers might be compelled to sell their inventory of that particular security. Conversely, if supply surpasses demand, they may need to purchase shares. This affirmative obligations framework functions to maintain a balanced relationship between supply and demand, which subsequently contributes to reducing price volatility.

Designated Market Makers

As the NYSE continues to automate, the role of specialist market makers has changed. Designated Market Makers (DMMs) have now replaced the traditional NYSE specialists. DMMs are responsible for managing supply and demand, as well as performing additional duties. These duties include determining the appropriate opening prices for securities and working to reduce transaction costs for investors.

Practical Illustration of Affirmative Obligations

Modern DMMs operate within an affirmative obligation framework that encompasses various practices:

  • Orderly Trading: DMMs maintain orderly trading during the opening and closing periods of the trading day.
  • Optimal Stock Prices: They provide quotes reflecting the best available stock prices.
  • Risk Management: DMMs oversee processes that withdraw market liquidity to effectively manage risk.

To support DMMs in their market-making endeavors, the NYSE offers rebates for such activities. These rebates are designed to incentivize prudent and effective market-making practices. They are tied to specific outcomes, including the accuracy of quoted prices, the level of market liquidity, and the quality of quotes provided for thinly traded securities.


Affirmative obligation is crucial for the New York Stock Exchange. By requiring Designated Market Makers to maintain liquidity in the face of supply and demand imbalances, this framework promotes orderly trading and reduces price instability. DMMs' responsibilities now include additional tasks to improve market efficiency, and rebates incentivize effective market-making practices aligned with affirmative obligations.

New York Stock Exchange (NYSE)
Designated Market Makers (DMMs)
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