Stock exchanges make the financial world go round. Situated in financial hubs across the world, the exchanges are hives of activity, where billions of dollars worth of stocks and shares are traded every day.

Despite financial powerhouses the world over being gripped by recessions in recent years, the exchanges themselves have remained as active as ever, although latest figures show that 2012 proved a testing year. Market capitalisation actually gave cause for positivity and was the only indicator showing growth, with a 15 per cent growth rate compared to 2011. But volumes of all products traded showed significant dips, including a 22.5 per cent drop in equity transactions, with derivatives down by 20 per cent.

The performances of 58 regulated exchanges around the world are monitored and reported by the World Federation of Exchanges, with monthly statistics. Here is a guide to the top 10 performing  stock exchanges in the world, according to the latest market capitalisation figures (in USD) for 2012:

1 NYSE Euronext (USA) ,086bn

Often seen as the icon of the modern financial world, the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) is the largest and oldest stock exchange on the planet and has been trading since 1792. Some of the biggest global brands and companies including the Bank of America and Walmart are traded here, along with more than a third of the all of the world’s equities. It has enjoyed an eventful few years too having become a publicly traded firm in 2006 after merging with the Archipelago exchange, and then a year later with Euronext when it acquired its current moniker NYSE Euronext. In December 2012 it was announced that NYSE Euronext was being acquired by IntercontinentalExchange in a deal worth a staggering $8.2 billion.

2 NASDAQ OMX (US)   $4,582bn

The rise of the National Association of Securities Dealers Automated Quotations – or more simply NASDAQ – has been somewhat quicker, starting life as an over-the-counter securities trader in 1971 before rising to become the world’s second largest stock exchange. A merger with the Scandinavian financial services company OMX saw it renamed NASDAQ OMX in 2007. NASDAQ was the world’s first electronic stock market and these days is where many of the world’s biggest technology companies are traded, including tech giants Microsoft and Apple.

3 Tokyo Stock Exchange Group (now Japan Exchange Group) $3,479bn

Japan’s largest stock exchange was established in 1949, although Tokyo has hosted stock exchanges since the late 19th century. At the start of 2013 the Tokyo Stock Exchange Group merged with Osaka Securities Exchange Co to become Japan Exchange Group, forming a national bourse trading stocks, commodities and other securities. Bosses have already announced their intentions to seek overseas investment in order to fuel further growth.

4 London Stock Exchange Group $3,397bn

Founded at the turn of the century in 1801 and with roots back to the trading going on at coffee houses in the 17th century, the historic London Stock Exchange is now the beating heart of the City of London and the biggest stock exchange in Europe. In recent years it has been subject to failed takeover bids from NASDAQ and an expected merger with Canada’s TMX Group was shelved in 2011. More than two-thirds of the 2,700 companies traded on the London Stock Exchange are UK-based and include fuel giant BP, banking firm Barclays and pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline.

5 NYSE Euronext (Europe) $2,832bn

The European operation of the NYSE Euronext Group, which also runs the New York Stock Exchange, is based in Amsterdam in the Netherlands and is the fifth largest stock exchange in the world, operating equities and derivatives markets. Euronext was born from the merger of three European markets in September 2000, the Paris Bourse, Brussels Stock Exchange and the Amsterdam Stock Exchange, and two years later also merged with the Portuguese-based Bolsa de Valores de Lisboa e Porto. It became part of the NYSE Euronext Group in 2007.

6 Hong Kong Exchanges $2,832bn

This securities and derivatives market in Hong Kong is where shares companies such as the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, PetroChina and HSBC Holdings are traded. Its current holding company was formed in 2000 but the exchange dates back to 1891, since which time it has undergone various mergers and acquisitions.

7 Shanghai SE $2,547bn

The Shanghai Stock Exchange is one of two independent stock exchanges in China, alongside the Shenzhen Stock Exchange, and its listings have a market value of more than twice that of the rival exchange. Trading takes place in two currencies due to the limitations on overseas trading, with A Shares traded in the Chinese currency of renminbi, and B Shares traded in US dollars.

8 TMX Group $2,059bn

TMX Group owns the Toronto Stock Exchange based in Canada’s largest city. Its present incarnation was formed in 2007 following a merger with the Montreal Exchange. Its original formation dates back to an association of brokers in Toronto in 1861 and by 2012 nearly 4,000 companies were listed on the exchange, making it the most active stock market in the Americas by number of companies listed.

9 Deutsche Börse $1,486bn

The origins of the Frankfurt-based stock exchange can be traced back as far as 1585 when a group of businessmen attempted to standardise the exchange rates of different currencies being used by Germany’s then-disparate regions. The modern form of this joint stock company was formed in 1993 and is where trading in companies including BMW and Lufthansa takes place. An attempted merger with NYSE Euronext was blocked by the European Commission in 2011 due to fears over monopolisation of the markets.

10 Australian SE $1,387bn

Today’s Australian Securities Exchange based in Sydney is the largest market in Australia and was formed from the 2006 merger of the Australian Stock Exchange and the Sydney Futures Exchange. The seeds were sown much earlier, with six independent exchanges formed across Australia’s major territories throughout the late 19th century. These were all amalgamated into the Australian Stock Exchange in 1987, before the 2006 merger led to today’s ASX structure.