Typically used in accounting practice, mark-to-market refers to the measure given to asset and liability accounts that are in accordance with current market values. Having the ability to increase or decrease over time, this method looks to give a current, accurate depiction of an individual’s or business’s financial standing. To provide an easy, relatable example, stocks in the S&P 500 are marked-to-market everyday. Values are determined based on investor demand, and fluctuate based on how much the market values a particular piece of equity. Mark-to-market valuations may be more difficult in non-public markets and illiquid assets as much less real-time data exists.
Although the mark-to-market model may provide an effective representation as to the current value of a company or asset, this measure may not prove as effective in times of uncertainty. When the market is shifting, and buyers continuously leave and enter the market, pricing becomes volatile and the mark-to-market method may prove inefficient and inaccurate.