Trends are what allow traders and investors to capture profits. Whether on a short- or long-term time frame, in an overall trending market or a ranging environment, the flow from one price to another is what creates profits and losses. There are four major factors that cause both long-term trends and short-term fluctuations. These factors are governments, international transactions, speculation and expectation, and supply and demand. (For more, see Trading Trend Or Range?)

Tutorial: Economic Indicators To Know

Major Market Forces
Learning how these major factors shape trends over the long term can provide insight into why certain trends are developing, why a trend is in place and how future trends may occur. Here are the four major factors:

  1. Governments
    Governments hold much sway over the free markets. Fiscal and monetary policy have a profound effect on the financial marketplace. By increasing and decreasing interest rates the government and Federal Reserve can effectively slow or attempt to speed up growth within the country. This is called monetary policy.

    If government spending increases or contracts, this is known as fiscal policy, and can be used to help ease unemployment and/or stabilize prices. By altering interest rates and the amount of dollars available on the open market, governments can change how much investment flows into and out of the country. (Learn more in our Federal Reserve Tutorial.)

  2. International Transactions
    The flow of funds between countries impacts the strength of a country's economy and its currency. The more money that is leaving a country, the weaker the country's economy and currency. Countries that predominantly export, whether physical goods or services, are continually bringing money into their countries. This money can then be reinvested and can stimulate the financial markets within those countries.

  3. Speculation and Expectation
    Speculation and expectation are integral parts of the financial system. Where consumers, investors and politicians believe the economy will go in the future impacts how we act today. Expectation of future action is dependent on current acts and shapes both current and future trends. Sentiment indicators are commonly used to gauge how certain groups are feeling about the current economy. Analysis of these indicators as well as other forms of fundamental and technical analysis can create a bias or expectation of future price rates and trend direction. (Read more on this closely watched economic indicator; see Understanding the Consumer Confidence Index and Investors Intelligence Sentiment Index.)

  4. Supply and Demand
    Supply and demand for products, currencies and other investments creates a push-pull dynamic in prices. Prices and rates change as supply or demand changes. If something is in demand and supply begins to shrink, prices will rise. If supply increases beyond current demand, prices will fall. If supply is relatively stable, prices can fluctuate higher and lower as demand increases or decreases. (See more on this subject in Economics Basics: Demand and Supply and Monetarism: Printing Money To Curb Inflation.)

Effect on Short- and Long-Term Trends
With these factors causing both short- and long-term fluctuations in the market, it is important to understand how all these elements come together to create trends. While these major factors are categorically different, they are closely linked to one another. Government mandates impact international transactions, which play a role in speculation, and supply and demand plays a role in each of these other factors.

Government news releases, such as proposed changes in spending or tax policy, as well as Federal Reserve decisions to change or maintain interest rates can have a dramatic effect on long term trends. Lower interest rates and taxes encourage spending and economic growth. This has a tendency to push market prices higher, but the market does not always respond in this way because other factors are also at play. Higher interest rates and taxes, for example, deter spending and result in contraction or a long-term fall in market prices.

In the short term, these news releases can cause large price swings as traders and investors buy and sell in response to the information. Increased action around these announcements can create short-term trends, while longer term trends develop as investors fully grasp and absorb what the impact of the information means for the markets.

The International Effect
International transactions, balance of payments between countries and economic strength are harder to gauge on a daily basis, but they play a major role in longer-term trends in many markets. The currency markets are a gauge of how well one country's currency and economy is doing relative to others. A high demand for a currency means that currency will rise relative to other currencies.

The value of a country's currency also plays a role in how other markets will do within that country. If a country's currency is weak, this will deter investment into that country, as potential profits will be eroded by the weak currency. (Unique features of the forex market may allow larger players to get a jump on smaller ones; check out The Currency Market Information Edge also read Forex Trading Rules: Always Pair Strong With Weak for more on weak and strong currencies.)

The Participant Effect
The analysis and resultant positions taken by traders and investors based on the information they receive about government policy and international transactions create speculation as to where prices will move. When enough people agree on direction, the market enters into a trend that could sustain itself for many years.

Trends are also perpetuated by market participants who were wrong in their analysis; being forced to exit their losing trades pushes prices further in the current direction. As more investors climb aboard to profit from a trend, the market becomes saturated and the trend reverses, at least temporarily. (Find out what effect institutional investors have on the stock market and individual traders, read The Market Participant Playbook.)

The S & D Effect
This is where supply and demand enters the picture. Supply and demand affects individuals, companies and the financial markets as a whole. In some markets, such as the commodity markets, supply is determined by a physical product. Supply and demand for oil is constantly changing, adjusting the price a market participant is willing to pay for oil today and in the future.

As supply dwindles or demand increases, a long-term rise in oil prices can occur as market participants outbid one another to attain a seemingly finite supply of the commodity. Suppliers want a higher price for what they have, and a higher demand pushes the price that buyers are willing to pay higher.

All markets have a similar dynamic. Stocks fluctuate on a short and long-term scale, creating trends. The threat of supply drying up at current prices forces buyers to buy at higher and higher prices, creating large price increases. If a large group of sellers were to enter the market, this would increase the supply of stock available and would likely push prices lower. This occurs on all time frames. (The A/D line highlights buying and selling pressure to confirm existing trends; check out Trend-Spotting With The Accumulation/Distribution Line.)


The Bottom Line
Trends are generally created by four major factors: governments, international transactions, speculation/expectation, and supply and demand. These areas are all linked as expected future conditions shape current decisions and those current decisions shape current trends. Government affects trends mainly through monetary and fiscal policy. These policies affect international transactions which in turn affect economic strength. Speculation and expectation drive prices based on what future prices might be. Finally, changes in supply and demand create trends as market participants fight for the best price.

Related Articles
  1. Chart Advisor

    Gold Struggles to Climb Higher and May Fall Soon

    Traders will be watching the price of gold over the coming weeks. We'll take a look at how a couple major moving averages are suggesting that the next move could be lower.
  2. Technical Indicators

    Use Market Volume Data to Determine a Bottom

    Market bottoms often carve out classic volume patterns that let observant traders make fast and accurate calls.
  3. Forex Strategies

    These Are The Best Hours To Trade the Euro

    Six popular currency pairs and numerous secondary crosses offer euro traders a wide variety of short- and long-term opportunities.
  4. Mutual Funds & ETFs

    Top 3 Switzerland ETFs

    Explore detailed analysis and information of the top three Swiss exchange-traded funds that offer exposure to the Swiss equities market.
  5. Economics

    Leading Economic Indicators: U.S. Bureau of Labor Monthly Stats

    The Bureau of Labor Statistics' monthly employment figures are a key economic indicator. Here's how they work.
  6. Credit & Loans

    Getting Government Loans For Your Small Business

    Would a government loan provide a more cost-effective way to finance your business? See whether your company qualifies for a government loan.
  7. Charts & Patterns

    Understand How Square Works before the IPO

    Square is reported to have filed for an IPO. For interested investors wondering how the company makes money, Investopedia takes a look at its business.
  8. Trading Strategies

    Who Actually Trades or Invests In Penny Stocks?

    Although penny stocks are highly speculative, millions of people trade them daily. Here are 10 different types who do.
  9. Chart Advisor

    4 Stocks Still Flashing Buy Signals

    In the midst of volatility and a big market sell-off last week, these stocks are flashing buy signals.
  10. Mutual Funds & ETFs

    ETF Analysis: SPDR Dow Jones International RelEst

    Learn how the SPDR Dow Jones International Real Estate exchange-traded fund (ETF) is managed and for whom the ETF is most appropriate.
RELATED TERMS
  1. Supply

    A fundamental economic concept that describes the total amount ...
  2. Monetary Policy

    The actions of a central bank, currency board or other regulatory ...
  3. Brazil, Russia, India And China ...

    An acronym for the economies of Brazil, Russia, India and China ...
  4. Section 1231 Property

    A tax term relating to depreciable business property that has ...
  5. Emergency Banking Act Of 1933

    A bill passed during the administration of former U.S. President ...
  6. Gross Domestic Product - GDP

    The monetary value of all the finished goods and services produced ...
RELATED FAQS
  1. Tame Panic Selling with the Exhausted Selling Model

    The exhausted selling model is a pricing strategy used to identify and trade based off of the price floor of a security. ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. Point and Figure Charting Using Count Analysis

    Count analysis is a means of interpreting point and figure charts to measure vertical price movements. Technical analysts ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. How is the Federal Reserve audited?

    Contrary to conventional wisdom, the Federal Reserve is extensively audited. Politicians on the left and right of a populist ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. Who decides when to print money in the US?

    The U.S. Treasury decides to print money in the United States as it owns and operates printing presses. However, the Federal ... Read Full Answer >>
  5. Why do some people claim the Federal Reserve is unconstitutional?

    The U.S. Constitution does not mention the need for a central bank, nor does it explicitly grant the government the power ... Read Full Answer >>
  6. Where are the Social Security administration headquarters?

    The U.S. Social Security Administration, or SSA, is headquartered in Woodlawn, Maryland, a suburb just outside of Baltimore. ... Read Full Answer >>

You May Also Like

Trading Center
×

You are using adblocking software

Want access to all of Investopedia? Add us to your “whitelist”
so you'll never miss a feature!