March 26, 2009

What causes stock prices to move?

Knowing the answer to this will enable you to buy and sell at the right time.

STOCK investing is perhaps the most talked about form of investing. Stocks create hype because they are volatile and sensitive to various factors. With the current economic landscape and dismal performance of bourses worldwide, we can observe that stock prices are affected on a much larger scale than usual. So, if you are wondering what makes stock prices go up or down, read on to find out.

Knowing the answer to this will enable you to buy and sell at the right time. Unfortunately, there is no one definite answer to this simple question. Various factors influence stock price movements. However, certain primary factors have a major impact on the movement and as an investor, you need to pay attention to these factors as guidance in making the right call to "buy" or "sell".

Demand and Supply

This golden rule of economics holds true even when it comes to the stock market. When demand for stocks is greater than supply, stock prices will go up. This happens when everyone starts to chase after stocks but only very few are willing to sell. This in turn, pushes the prices of stocks up further. On the flip side, when supply is greater than demand, everyone rushes to sell off their stocks, but only a few buyers are interested. This results in stock prices being depressed.

Bearing this in mind, you then need to know what causes the demand or supply to go up or down.

* Economic situation

* Economic situation Stock market performance is actually a leading indicator of our economic situation. This means that the stock market will reflect the market expectations of our economy a few months down the line. As such, if the market expects the economy to boom, you will start to see stock prices increasing much earlier than the actual boom and the opposite applies when recession hits. Bearing this in mind, as investors, you need to be sensitive to signs that provide any form of indication on the future direction of the economy.

For example, when inflation rate creeps up; there is a possibility that the interest rate will go up as well to help cool the economy. The stock market in turn, will react negatively given such an expectation. On the other hand, when the economy is at the bottom of its cycle and the interest rate is lowered to stimulate economic activity, you will see that stock market will react positively to it. This positive reaction is attributed to the expectation that the economy is on the road to recovery.

* Company performance

* Company performanceLogically, the stock price of a company should go up if its financial performance is good, and vice versa. However, you will notice that most of the time, when the financial results are announced, as long as they reflect analysts' expectations, regardless of whether the reports bear good or bad news, stock prices will usually not show much movement. It is only when the results come as a surprise to the market that you will see a blip in the price. Basically, this is because the existing stock prices already reflect the current market expectation. This tells you that you need to pay attention to the company's business fundamentals, as this is the critical factor that is going to influence the company's stock price in the long run. As an investor, you should be mindful of the company's business direction and projects that it is involved in, that have the potential of bringing growth to the business. You have keep a watchful eye on its financial performance and management's strength, in order to make a good investment decision.

* Market rumours

* Market rumoursThis is a major contributor to the stock market's short term volatility. There is a famous saying in the stock market, 'buy on rumours, sell on facts'. Investors tend to over-react or react hastily to the slightest market rumours. Often times, they will panic and rush to sell on negative rumours, resulting in the drop of the stock price. Investors could take the opportunity to buy at that particular time if they know that the company is fundamentally strong and the likelihood of the negative rumours being accurate is low; or the situation is not as bad as it is made out to be. By carefully scrutinising market rumours, you are able to make sound investment decisions instead of just following the crowd, that could lead to dire consequences.

* Political instability

* Political instabilityNaturally, if a country is experiencing political unrest, the stock market will inevitably have to deal with some setbacks. In cases of instability, foreign investors react by pulling out their funds which may trigger panic selling from all parties. You will need to assess whether the unrest is just a short-term event or carries with it a longer lasting impact. This is crucial in assessing your risk should you choose to continue holding on to your position, as opposed to taking quick action to leave the market.

The above are only a few major drivers that will cause the stock prices to move. However, most of the time, the investor psychology effect of over reacting makes market movement more prominent than it should be. One of Benjamin Graham's investing principles encourages us to look at market fluctuations as our friend rather than our enemy, as market movements sometime create buying opportunities for true investors. Therefore, as an informed and knowledgeable investor, avoid getting into "panic mode". Always remember, understand and evaluate the situation by using your own judgement to ensure that you make intelligent investment decisions.

Source: Business Times

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