There are people in every industry that have so much of an effect on it, it seems unfair. Golf has Tiger Woods, politics have the President of the United States, and the investing world has these players.
TUTORIAL: World's Greatest Investors
1. Warren Buffett
Warren Buffett has the distinction of the having celebrity status both in and out of the investing world. Of all of the leading voices in the market, Buffett is the largest, although his voice is rarely heard. Buffett is the CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, a $184 billion company that owns controlling interests in companies like Geico, Netjets and many others. He is the third wealthiest person in the world and has made his empire as possibly the most successful value investor as well as a proponent of the buy and hold investing model.
During the peak of the Great Recession of 2009, Buffet wrote an op ed piece in the New York Times. It was hailed as a vote of confidence in an economy that was faltering. When Buffett speaks, the market listens, and it is easy to see simply by watching Wall Street's as well as the news media's reaction to all of his words. (For related reading, see Warren Buffett: How He Does It.)
2. Carl Icahn
Corporate raiders find companies that they perceived to be undervalued and purchase a controlling interest in the company, often allowing them to gain control of a certain number of board seats. With those board seats the corporate raider is able to make changes to the company which increases their value.
Carl Icahn may be one of the best known modern day corporate raiders. Some of his most famous attempts at taking control of companies include his battles with Trans World Airlines, Yahoo! and Time Warner. Recently, Haines Celestial Group, maker of organic foods and one of Mr. Icahn's holdings, announced a better-than-expected quarter, allowing Icahn to profit $124 million - a 100% gain in just one year. (For related reading, see Carl Icahn's Investing Strategy.)
TUTORIAL: The Greatest Investors: Carl Icahn
3. Bill Gross
Known as the bond king, Bill Gross is the founder and chief investing officer of PIMCO, a global investing firm focused primarily on bond investing. He manages the $235 billion PIMCO Total Return Fund, a fund mostly invested in bonds. He was referred to by the New York Times as the nation's most prominent bond investor.
Mr. Gross is vocal about his views of world monetary policy and the investing community listens. Over the years he has made some legendary calls including a recent 2011 warning to investors to steer clear of treasuries because of their negative return when accounting for inflation. If history is a guide, even the largest institutional investors will listen very closely to this warning.
4. Dennis Gartman
Dennis Gartman is best known for his daily newsletter, The Gartman Letter. Each day at 2:30AM he wakes up to write his four page publication for delivery to all subscribers no later than 6:00AM. This newsletter is read by institutional investors all over the world because it contains commentary on the world markets. Of particular interest is his commentary on currency and commodities trading. If you're looking for one of the best informed predictions on the gold market, Dennis Gartman may be your trader of choice.
Not only is he a commentator, he is also a trader himself. His 22 rules of trading are a must-read for all traders. One of his rules is to understand mass psychology more than economics because markets are more based on human emotion more than economic factors. (Dennis Gartman has this to say about stocks. For more, see Patience Is A Trader's Virtue.)
5. The Computer
It may seem odd that the computer is a market mover but the effect of the computer on the modern day trading market is staggering. Computers now account for more than 70% of all daily trading volume. To put that in to perspective, for every three trades made by a human, seven trades are done by computer - and those seven trades could have taken place in under one second.
Because of this, a new question must be asked by the modern trader: What would the computer do? Many argue that looking at the characteristics of a company are no longer as important as studying the company's chart. Understanding moving averages and support levels may now be more important than knowing what a company does and what new products are in the pipeline.
One thing is certain: The computer is now just as - if not more - important than the large volume hedge fund and mutual fund traders. (For related reading, see The Death Of The Trading Floor.)
The Bottom Line
Whether the market is rigged or not will remain a question asked by traders for many more generations but it is certain that these influential traders have a profound effect on movement of the global markets. You may be wise to keep an eye on their movements and market predictions.