Fundamental analysis concerns itself with the causes of price movements. It doesn’t attempt to predict future price movements per se, but because economic events move far slower than market developments, it’s usually the case that a phenomenon established by fundamental analysis will be valid for a longer time than the market reacts to it, and discounts it (due to the market’s erratic, irrational and emotional behavior), and it’s this fact that the trader exploits for profit.
What is fundamental analysis?
Fundamental analysis is about economy and politics. It is important to keep up-to-date about weekly employment statistics, consumer price inflation, interest rates and similar “hot” indicators that are at the forefront of newspapers pages and TV screens, but just being aware of them and expecting the market to react to them in the desired fashion in a short time is not fundamental analysis, nor is it common sense. In fact, as we mentioned in the earlier paragraph, the main reason that the trader can profit through fundamental analysis is that the markets do not react reasonably to fundamental developments.
Let’s illustrate our point with an example:
Until the autumn of 2007 the US had very low unemployment: Toward the latter part of the second presidential term of George W. Bush, unemployment in the US moved below five percent, and it remained at those levels for a considerable time. Most of the data released through this period remained positive overall, with the exception of the housing market, where conditions had been deteriorating since 2005.
Thus, most of the data and news releases were positive, and if we’re seeking to show that fundamental analysis provides good guidance to the trader, it’s clear that we do not have that guidance in the patchwork of numbers that attracted the most of the media attention. Focusing on the news releases, without placing them into a working context, without understanding the workings of the economy, the trader is as blind as the proverbial blind man who tries to describe an elephant by a few gropes at its feet, the tusks and the trunk.
How do you become successful with fundamental analysis?
Like most good things in life, being successful in performing fundamental analysis requires study and patience, but once again, there’s no expectation of exceptional skills from the trader. Economics is a popular field, and most of the data necessary for understanding the market is available online with research provided for free, in many cases, by big banks and government institutions. What the investor is expected to do is not to memorize the numbers and compare each week’s release to the previous one, but form a coherent mental picture of “what happens why”.
Finally, let us repeat here that most of the major fundamental events that the market appears to discount in a few days of trading at most, have in fact effects that last far longer and reach far deeper than the violent but brief reactions of price movements suggest. Interest rates and unemployment statistics are simple but effective examples for demonstrating our point: The effects of the interest rate reductions during 2000-2001 had lasted for at least 4 years in the real estate market, and had a great role in establishing the downward dollar trend that lasted between 2001 and 2008. Similarly, the trend of job creation in the US and abroad, once begun, had a deep and lasting impact on global stock prices and forex trends which went through all sorts of panics and shocks during this same period (the Iraq War, and several defaults by some large firms are good examples). In the end, however, the so-called big picture of stability supplied by high employment and low interest rates always brought the markets on track. What caused them to collapse eventually is outside the subject of our discussion. But, the fact that fundamental economic events are long-term, and that their effects last longer and are deeper than the market discounts is a fact that is not changed by all these developments.
Let us briefly examine a number of the major economic indicators used in fundamental analysis. We start off with the GDP.
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