Trading News for Beginners – Animals in the Financial Markets

August 04, 2022 14:21

What do animals have to do with the financial markets? In this Trading News for Beginners article, you’ll learn about animal symbolism in trading and investing, including: 

  • Bulls and Bears 
  • Doves and Hawks 
  • Rabbits and Tortoises 
  • Whales 
  • Black Swans 
  • Animal Spirits 

We’ve all seen and felt uplifted by the adorable pictures of pets like kittens and puppies on social media. Although the financial markets have a reputation for being all about business, they also have a long-standing and deep connection with animal symbolism.  

Whereas pets on social media represent a warm and affectionate feeling, the animal symbols in the investment markets have dramatically different emotions attached to them.  

As a beginner, you’ll soon become tuned in to the financial media and follow the news in order to stay updated with the latest developments in the Forex and Stock markets. Most articles about market sentiment refer to bulls and bears, so let’s start with those animals.

Bulls and bears in the financial markets

A strong uptrend in the economy has an influence on investor sentiment, meaning more optimism and confidence in the trading and investing markets. In some cases, a booming market turns into a bull run in which market sentiment seems to charge horns first, showing off a healthy appetite for risk.  

In the opposite scenario, a sharp downturn in the economy brings out the emotions of fear and sometimes panic. The animal which represents these emotions is the bear, and when a market turns bearish, there are mass sell-offs and investor risk appetite fades.  

The bull and bear have become short cuts for describing the prevailing mood in the markets and can also be equated to buyers and sellers. The push-and-pull of buyers and sellers can be seen in the rising and falling of different instruments in the Stock and Forex markets.  

Bulls and bears battle on the ground while other species take to the air, bringing us to the hawks and doves.  

Hawks and doves

A hawk has come to represent a central bank determined to tighten credit by raising interest rates and catch its prey – high inflation. Hawkish monetary policy appears when prices are rising too fast and feeding into inflation, forcing central bankers to take measures to tamp it down.  

A dove is a much less aggressive bird than a hawk and when used in the financial markets, the dove represents periods of monetary policy during low or normal inflation. Dovish monetary policy is connected to looser credit conditions and is also referred to as ‘accommodative’ monetary policy.

Black Swans

Black swans are so rare that the name is used to describe highly unusual events in the trading and investment markets. Examples of Black Swan events include the flash crash of the EURCHF when the Swiss National Bank (SNB) withdrew from an agreement to peg the Swiss Franc to the EUR. Black Swan events can also refer to geopolitical happenings like wars, revolutions, pandemics, and other huge disturbances in the global economy.  

The crucial thing to understand about Black Swan market events is that they are caused by a mass reaction of fear and panic. In hindsight and once the dust has settled, the catalyst that triggered the mass reaction can often mean an evolution in the economy. A good example of this is the gradual extinction of currency pegs, which appear to be on their way out as modern economies require more flexibility than ever before.  

Rabbits and tortoises

Rabbits and tortoises are not as commonly seen in the media as bulls and bears or hawks and doves. This is perhaps because rabbits and tortoises represent a type of investor and trader approach rather than a temporary emotion like fear or optimism.

Rabbits would tend to leap quickly in and out of trades or investments, while tortoises would take the slower and more long-term approach, inching towards their financial goals rather than rushing.

Whales

We’ve talked about land and air animal species but what about the sea? Whales represent the giants of institutional investors and traders, in other words, mega-sized banks, governments, central banks and hedge funds.

When a large-scale institution carries out a trade or investment, it can shift the direction of the market. Examples of this can be seen during central bank Forex interventions, when they buy up their national currency to support it during vulnerable periods.

When hedge funds short sell or go long on an instrument, they have such high spending power that they can also move the market.

Animal spirits 

No, the term animal spirits doesn’t refer to the ghosts of bulls and bears, but it can be spooky.

Animal spirits describe an overwhelming emotion gripping investors and traders at special times in the markets. These emotions are usually associated with panic during Black Swan events or euphoria when the economy is going so well that it appears that every investment or trade is likely to succeed.

Animal spirits are emotional extremes in the investment markets and can result in sweeping changes and movements in asset prices. These changes can be described as volatility, but in the case of animal spirits, the changes in asset prices can be far beyond the healthy meaning of volatility, moving into wild swings until the phenomenon passes.

What’s the answer to animal spirits? Always use prudent risk management techniques and this is next week’s topic, so be sure to check back for our regular Trading News for Beginners article.

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This material does not contain and should not be construed as containing investment advice, investment recommendations, an offer of or solicitation for any transactions in financial instruments. Please note that such trading analysis is not a reliable indicator for any current or future performance, as circumstances may change over time. Before making any investment decisions, you should seek advice from independent financial advisors to ensure you understand the risks. 

Sarah Fenwick
Sarah Fenwick Financial Writer, Admirals London

Sarah Fenwick's background is in journalism and mass communications. She has worked as a correspondent covering Swiss Stock Exchange news and written about finance and economics for 15 years.