If you have been paying attention to CNBC or any other business channels that past couple of days you will see that the term Mark to Market is being thrown out there a lot lately. It is an insider term but it really does effect the everyday person and their investments that they might be trying to make in this topsy turvy market.
The term “Mark to Market” definition according to wikipedia is “an accounting methodology of assigning a value to a position held in a financial instrument based on the current market price for the instrument or similar instruments”. This basically means when I have a contract such as a futures contract, when I go to report this contract for accounting purposes I can mark the value of this contract the value that it is the day that I fill it out and not the value that it will be the day it expires.
Now you may ask what does this have to do with the Economy as a whole or my wallet. This means that a company can be over valued because they are marking their contracts at a value higher than what they are really worth. This type of accounting started in the derivatives and futures exchanges but slowly made it’s way to Banks and Corporations. These corporations were able to create their own financial models to give hypothetical situations where these trades would be worth the amount that they posted. Now this hypothetical situation would become the actual value of the stock. A lot of this type of accounting was used by banks for the sub prime markets (sidenote: It was required by th SEC) which led to false valuations to spread like wildfire.
This is only a summary of Mark to Market accounting. If you would like a more detailed or quicker explanation you can go to Motley Fool or investopedia. It is good to know these sort of things when you are watching business news so that you can follow the conversation and know how that conversation is affecting your wallet.