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Fundamental analysis

Fundamental analysis refers to the study of the core underlying elements that influence the economy of a particular entity. It is a method of study that attempts to predict price action and market trends by analyzing economic indicators, government policy and societal factors (to name just a few elements) within a business cycle framework. If you think of the financial markets as a big clock, the fundamentals are the gears and springs that move the hands around the face. Anyone walking down the street can look at this clock and tell you what time it is now, but the fundamentalist can tell you how it came to be this time and more importantly, what time (or more precisely, what price) it will be in the future.

Bearing in mind that the financial underpinnings of any country, trading bloc or multinational industry takes into account many factors, including social, political and economic influences, staying on top of an extremely fluid fundamental picture can be challenging. At the same time, you'll find that your knowledge and understanding of a dynamic global market will increase immeasurably as you delve further and further into the complexities and subtleties of the fundamentals of the markets.

Fundamental analysis is a very effective way to forecast economic conditions, but not necessarily forecast exact market prices. For example, when analyzing an economist's forecast of the upcoming GDP or employment report, you begin to get a fairly clear picture of the general health of the economy and the forces at work behind it. However, you'll need to come up with a precise method as to how best to translate this information into entry and exit points for a particular trading strategy.

A trader who studies the markets using fundamental analysis will generally create models to formulate a trading strategy. These models typically utilize a host of empirical data and attempt to forecast market behavior and estimate future values or prices by using past values of core economic indicators. This information is then used to derive specific trades that best exploit this information.

Forecasting models are as numerous and varied as the traders and market buffs that create them. Two people can look at the exact same data and come up with two completely different conclusions about how the market will be influenced by it. Therefore is it important that before casting yourself into a particular mold regarding any aspect of market analysis, you study the fundamentals and see how they best fit your trading style and expectations.

For Forex traders, the fundamentals are everything that makes a country tick. From interest rates and central bank policy to natural disasters, the fundamentals are a dynamic mix of distinct plans, erratic behaviors and unforeseen events. Therefore, it is best to get a handle on the most influential contributors to this diverse mix than it is to formulate a comprehensive list of all "The Fundamentals."

General information regarding major economic indicators:

When focusing exclusively on the impact that economic indicators have on price action in a particular market, the foreign exchange markets are the most challenging, and therefore, have greatest potential for profits of any market. Obviously, factors other than economic indicators move prices and as such make other markets more or less potentially profitable. But since a currency is a proxy for the country it represents, the economic health of that country is priced into the currency. One very important way to measure the health of an economy is through economic indicators. The challenge comes in diligently keeping track of the nuts and bolts of each country's particular economic information package. Here are a few general comments about economic indicators and some of the more closely watched data.

1. Most economic indicators can be divided into leading and lagging indicators.

2. Leading indicators are economic factors that change before the economy starts to follow a particular pattern or trend. Leading indicators are used to predict changes in the economy.

3. Lagging Indicators are economic factors that change after the economy has already begun to follow a particular pattern or trend.

Major Indicators

The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) - The sum of all goods and services produced either by domestic or foreign companies. GDP indicates the pace at which a country's economy is growing (or shrinking) and is considered the broadest indicator of economic output and growth.

Industrial Production - It is a chain-weighted measure of the change in the production of the nation's factories, mines and utilities as well as a measure of their industrial capacity and of how many available resources among factories, utilities and mines are being used (commonly known as capacity utilization). The manufacturing sector accounts for approximately one-quarter of the economy of most developed countries and the capacity utilization rate provides an estimate of how much factory capacity is in use.

Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) - The National Association of Purchasing Managers (NAPM), in the United States now called the Institute for Supply Management, releases a monthly composite index of national manufacturing conditions, constructed from data on new orders, production, supplier delivery times, backlogs, inventories, prices, employment, export orders, and import orders. It is divided into manufacturing and non-manufacturing sub-indices.

Producer Price Index (PPI) - The Producer Price Index (PPI) is a measure of price changes in the manufacturing sector. It measures average changes in selling prices received by domestic producers in the manufacturing, mining, agriculture, and electric utility industries for their output. The PPIs most often used for economic analysis are those for finished goods, intermediate goods, and crude goods.

Consumer Price Index (CPI) - The Consumer Price Index (CPI) is a measure of the average price level paid by urban consumers (80% of population) for a fixed basket of goods and services. It reports price changes in over 200 categories. The CPI also includes various user fees and taxes directly associated with the prices of specific goods and services.

Durable Goods - Durable Goods Orders measures new orders placed with domestic manufacturers for immediate and future delivery of factory hard goods. A durable good is defined as a good that lasts an extended period of time (over three years) during which its services are extended.

Employment Cost Index (ECI) - Payroll employment is a measure of the number of jobs in more than 500 industries in all states and 255 metropolitan areas. The employment estimates are based on a survey of larger businesses and counts the number of paid employees working part-time or full-time in the nation's business and government establishments.

Retail Sales - The retail sales report is a measure of the total receipts of retail stores from samples representing all sizes and kinds of business in retail trade throughout the nation. It is the timeliest indicator of broad consumer spending patterns and is adjusted for normal seasonal variation, holidays, and trading-day differences. Retail sales include durable and consumable merchandise sold, and services and excise taxes incidental to the sale of merchandise. Excluded are sales taxes collected directly from the customer.

Housing Starts - The Housing Starts report measures the number of residential units on which construction is begun each month. A start in construction is defined as the beginning of excavation of the foundation for the building and is comprised primarily of residential housing. Housing is very interest rate sensitive and is one of the first sectors to react to changes in interest rates. Significant reaction of start/permits to changing interest rates signals interest rates are nearing trough or peak. To analyze, focus on the percentage change in levels from the previous month. Report is released around the middle of the following month.

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