What is the Economic Calendar?

The economic calendar refers to the schedules dates of significant releases or events that may affect movement of individual security prices or markets as a whole. Investors and traders use the economic calendar to plan trades and portfolio reallocations, as well as to be alert to chart patterns and indicators that may be caused or affected by these events. The economic calendar for various countries is available for free on multiple financial and market websites.

Understanding Economic Calendars

Economic calendars usually focus on the scheduled releases of economic reports for a given country. Examples of events that are listed on an economic calendar include weekly jobless claims, reports of new home starts, scheduled changes in the interest rate or interest rate signaling, regular reports from the Federal Reserve or other central banks, economic sentiment surveys from specific markets and hundreds of other types of events. The majority of the events listed fall into one of two categories: projections of future financial or economic events, or reports on recent financial or economic events.

Traders and investors rely on the economic calendar to give them information and to provide trading opportunities. Traders often time movement into or out of positions to correspond either with an announcement of some event or with the heavy trading volume that often precedes a scheduled announcement. Following the economic calendar can be especially beneficial for a trader who wants to take a short position. If the trader guesses correctly about the nature of the announcement, she can open the position immediately before the scheduled announcement and then close it within hours of the announcement.

Navigating Economic Calendars

Economic calendars are available for free from financial and economic websites. These calendars vary from site to site, however, and although it is referred to as "the economic calendar," the actual calendar listings depend on the focus of the website and the events the users of the website are likely to be interested in. For example, the economic calendar on many websites lists only events in the United States as these events have a large market impact. There are other sites that allow the user to build their own economic calendar by using filters to display or hide events.

While these free calendars can be a useful starting point, most traders customize a calendar of their own based on the types of trades they prefer and the asset classes and regions they are comfortable with. Moreover, a customized economic calendar doesn't need to be limited to government and central bank releases. A trader may, for example, create an economic calendar around the major releases from oil producing regions while also incorporating the U.S. Energy Information Administration weekly petroleum status report and the quarterly filing dates of the oil sector companies he follows. In this way, an economic calendar becomes a customizable trading tool like an indicator alert.