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Capital exports in 2006
Capital imports in 2006

Financial capital can refer to money used by entrepreneurs and businesses to buy what they need to make their products or provide their services or to that sector of the economy based on its operation, i.e. retail, corporate, investment banking, etc.


Financial Capital vs. Real Capital

Financial Capital refers to the funds provided by lenders (and investors) to businesses to purchase real capital equipment for producing goods/services. Real Capital or Economic Capital comprises physical goods that assist in the production of other goods and services, e.g. shovels for gravediggers, sewing machines for tailors, or machinery and tooling for factories.

Financial Capital is provided by lenders for a price: interest. Also see time value of money for a more detailed description of how financial capital may be analyzed.

Furthermore, financial capital, is any liquid medium or mechanism that represents wealth, or other styles of capital. It is, however, usually purchasing power in the form of money available for the production or purchasing of goods, etcetera. Capital can also be obtained by producing more than what is immediately required and saving the surplus.

Financial capital has been subcategorized by some academics as economic or productive capital necessary for operations, signaling capital which signals a company's financial strength to shareholders, and regulatory capital which fulfills capital requirements.[1]

Sources of capital


Capital market

  • Long-term funds are bought and sold:
    • Shares
    • Debentures
    • Long-term loans, often with a mortgage bond as security
    • Reserve funds
    • Euro Bonds

Money market

  • Financial institutions can use short-term savings to lend out in the form of short-term loans:
    • Credit on open account
    • Bank overdraft
    • Short-term loans
    • Bills of exchange
    • Factoring of debtors

Differences between shares and debentures

  • Shareholders are effectively owners; debenture-holders are creditors.
  • Shareholders may vote at AGMs and be elected as directors; debenture-holders may not vote at AGMs or be elected as directors.
  • Shareholders receive profit in the form of dividends; debenture-holders receive a fixed rate of interest.
  • If there is no profit, the shareholder does not receive a dividend; interest is paid to debenture-holders regardless of whether or not a profit has been made.
  • In case of dissolution of firms debenture holders are paid first as compared to shareholder.

Fixed capital

This is money which is used to purchase assets that will remain permanently in the business and help it to make a profit.

Factors determining fixed capital requirements

  • Nature of business
  • Size of business
  • Stage of development
  • Capital invested by the owners
  • location of that area

Working capital

This is money which is used to buy stock, pay expenses and finance credit.

Factors determining working capital requirements

  • Size of business
  • Stage of development
  • Time of production
  • Rate of stock turnover ratio
  • Buying and selling terms
  • Seasonal consumption
  • Seasonal product
  • profit level
  • growth and expansion
  • production cycle
  • general nature of business
  • business cycle


A contract regarding any combination of capital assets is called a financial instrument, and may serve as a

Most indigenous forms of money (wampum, shells, tally sticks and such) and the modern fiat money is only a "symbolic" storage of value and not a real storage of value like commodity money.

Capital vs. money

Liquidity requirements of these vary significantly – leading to a diversity of contracts and financial markets to trade them on. When all four functions are served by one instrument, this is called money, which does not need to be traded on financial markets since the risk of loss of value of money is uniform across the whole society. Where no one form of money is agreed to have reliable value, and barter is undesirable, less liquid or more diverse instruments have served the four functions. This article focuses mostly on financial instruments which are not uniformly affected by native currency inflation and which are not guaranteed by a state.

Own and borrowed capital

Capital contributed by the owner or entrepreneur of a business, and obtained, for example, by means of savings or inheritance, is known as own capital or equity, whereas that which is granted by another person or institution is called borrowed capital, and this must usually be paid back with interest. The ratio between debt and equity is named leverage. It has to be optimized as a high leverage can bring a higher profit but create solvency risk.

Borrowed capital

This is capital which the business borrows from institutions or people, and includes debentures:

Own capital

This is capital that owners of a business (shareholders and partners, for example) provide:

  • Preference shares/hybrid source of finance
    • Ordinary preference shares
    • Cumulative preference shares
    • Participating preference shares
  • Ordinary shares
  • Bonus shares
  • Founders' shares

These have preference over the equity shares. This means the payments made to the shareholders are first paid to the preference shareholder(s) and then to the equity shareholders.

Issuing and trading

Like money, financial instruments may be "backed" by state military fiat, credit (i.e. social capital held by banks and their depositors), or commodity resources. Governments generally closely control the supply of it and usually require some "reserve" be held by institutions granting credit. Trading between various national currency instruments is conducted on a money market. Such trading reveals differences in probability of debt collection or store of value function of that currency, as assigned by traders.

When in forms other than money, financial capital may be traded on bond markets or reinsurance markets with varying degrees of trust in the social capital (not just credits) of bond-issuers, insurers, and others who issue and trade in financial instruments. When payment is deferred on any such instrument, typically an interest rate is higher than the standard interest rates paid by banks, or charged by the central bank on its money. Often such instruments are called fixed-income instruments if they have reliable payment schedules associated with the uniform rate of interest. A variable-rate instrument, such as many consumer mortgages, will reflect the standard rate for deferred payment set by the central bank prime rate, increasing it by some fixed percentage. Other instruments, such as citizen entitlements, e.g. "U.S. Social Security", or other pensions, may be indexed to the rate of inflation, to provide a reliable value stream.

Trading in stock markets or commodity markets is actually trade in underlying assets which are not wholly financial in themselves, although they often move up and down in value in direct response to the trading in more purely financial derivatives. Typically commodity markets depend on politics that affect international trade, e.g. boycotts and embargoes, or factors that influence natural capital, e.g. weather that affects food crops. Meanwhile, stock markets are more influenced by trust in corporate leaders, i.e. individual capital, by consumers, i.e. social capital or "brand capital" (in some analyses), and internal organizational efficiency, i.e. instructional capital and infrastructural capital. Some enterprises issue instruments to specifically track one limited division or brand. "Financial futures", "Short selling" and "financial options" apply to these markets, and are typically pure financial bets on outcomes, rather than being a direct representation of any underlying asset.

Broadening the notion

The relationship between financial capital, money, and all other styles of capital, especially human capital or labor, is assumed in central bank policy and regulations regarding instruments as above.

Such relationships and policies are characterized by a political economy - feudalist, socialist, capitalist, green, anarchist or otherwise. In effect, the means of money supply and other regulations on financial capital represent the economic sense of the value system of the society itself, as they determine the allocation of labor in that society.

So, for instance, rules for increasing or reducing the money supply based on perceived inflation, or on measuring well-being, reflect some such values, reflect the importance of using (all forms of) financial capital as a stable store of value. If this is very important, inflation control is key - any amount of money inflation reduces the value of financial capital with respect to all other types.

If, however, the medium of exchange function is more critical, new money may be more freely issued regardless of impact on either inflation or well-being.

Marxian Perspectives

It is common in Marxist theory and ideology to refer to the role of "Finance Capital" as the determining and ruling class interest in capitalist society, particularly in the latter stages.[2][3]


Normally, a financial instrument is priced accordingly to the perception by capital market players of its expected return and risk.

Unit of account functions may come into question if valuations of complex financial instruments vary drastically based on timing. The "book value", "mark-to-market" and "mark-to-future"[4] conventions are three different approaches to reconciling financial capital value units of account.

Economic role

Socialism, capitalism, feudalism, anarchism, other civic theories take markedly different views of the role of financial capital in social life, and propose various political restrictions to deal with that.

Finance capitalism is the production of profit from the manipulation of financial capital. It is held in contrast to industrial capitalism, where profit is made from the manufacture of goods.

See also


  1. ^ The Risk Report, April 2009. Volume XXXI No. 8. IRMI.
  2. ^ Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism ibid. Finance Capital and the Finance Oligarchy
  3. ^ Monopoly-Finance Capital and the Paradox of Accumulation John Bellamy Foster and Robert W. McChesney Monthly Review Sept-Oct 2009
  4. ^ The New Generation of Risk Management for Hedge Funds and Private Equity Investments, edited by Lars Jaeger, p. 349


F. Boldizzoni, Means and Ends: The Idea of Capital in the West, 1500-1970, New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008, chapters 7-8

Simple English

Financial capital is a form of capital. It is things that have value, but do not do anything by themselves. They are only valuable because people value (want) them. For example, money is a form of financial capital. You cannot do anything with money but it still has value.

Financial capital is used to pay for things, this is because there is always more of it and people always want it. This means that financial capital has a stable value and can be traded in most places and with most people.

Some forms of financial capital, such as stocks, gold or bonds are not wanted by everybody. However they can be traded with people for money or another type of financial capital. Because of this, these forms of financial capital do not have a stable price. This means that some people try to make a profit by buying and selling these types of financial capital in a market.

Some things are treated as financial capital, even though they do have a use. For example, some people buy and sell land but are not interested in doing anything with it. Some people think this sort of trade is bad because the land should be used and not just treated like money. Other types of capital, such as social capital and human capital are rarely treated like financial capital. This may be because they involve people. Treating useful capital like financial capital is called comodification.

In politics, a common question is how often the government should use financial capital. In particular, should the government use financial capital to make a profit? Traditionally, liberal politicians do not mind this kind of trading for profit, but socialist or conservative politicians are against it.

Other pages

  • National debt


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