Stock Trading Guide> Part III: Understanding the Markets

Thursday, December 20, 2007 | Labels: | |

A stock market is a private or public market for the trading of company stock and derivatives of company stock at an agreed price; both of these are securities listed on a stock exchange as well as those only traded privately.

Stock market index

The movements of the prices in a market or section of a market are captured in price indices called stock market indices, of which there are many, e.g., the S&P, the FTSE and the Euronext indices. Such indices are usually market capitalization (the total market value of floating capital of the company) weighted, with the weights reflecting the contribution of the stock to the index.

If the index goes up, it means that the prices of the stocks of most of the major companies on the BSE have gone up. If the index goes down, this tells you that the stock price of most of the major stocks on the stock exchange have gone down.

What makes stock prices go "up" and "down"?

Stock prices change every day because of market forces. By this we mean that stock prices change because of “supply and demand”. If more people want to buy a stock (demand) than sell it (supply), then the price moves up!

Conversely, if more people wanted to sell a stock than buy it, there would be greater supply than demand, and the price would fall. (Basics of economics!)

Understanding supply and demand is easy. What is difficult to understand is what makes people like a particular stock and dislike another stock. If you understand this, you will know what people are buying and what people are selling. If you know this you will know what prices go up and what prices go down!

To figure out the likes and dislikes of people, you have to figure out what news is positive for a company and what news is negative and how any news about a company will be interpreted by the people.

The most important factor that affects the value of a company is its earnings. Earnings are the profit a company makes, and in the long run no company can survive without them. It makes sense when you think about it. If a company never makes money, it isn't going to stay in business. Public companies are required to report their earnings four times a year (once each quarter).

Dalal Street watches with great attention at these times, which are referred to as earnings seasons. The reason behind this is that analysts base their future value of a company on their earnings projection.
If a company's results are better than expected, the price jumps up. If a company's results disappoint and are worse than expected, then the price will fall.

Of course, it's not just earnings that can change the feeling people have about a stock. It would be a rather simple world if this were the case! During the “dotcom bubble”, for example, the stock price of dozens of internet companies rose without ever making even the smallest profit. As we all know, these high stock prices did not hold, and most internet companies saw their values shrink to a fraction of their highs. Still, this fact demonstrates that there are factors other than current earnings that influence stocks.

So, what are "all the factors" that affect the stocks price? The best answer is that nobody really knows for sure. Some believe that it isn't possible to predict how stock prices will change, while others think that by drawing charts and looking at past price movements, you can determine when to buy and sell. The only thing we do know is that stocks are volatile and can change in price very very rapidly.

Just remember this: At the most fundamental level, supply and demand in the market determines stock price.

There are many types of techniques and methods that investors use to figure out whether a stock price will go up or down! We will try to give you an introduction to these techniques in Next article.

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