An Introduction to Fundamental Analysis in Forex
Fundamental analysis is a method of analysing the financial markets with the purpose of price forecasting. Forex fundamental analysis focuses on the overall state of the economy and researches various factors including interest rates, employment rate, GDP, international trade and manufacturing, as well as their relative impact on the value of the national currency they relate to.
The core premise of fundamental analysis in Forex, as well as other financial markets, is that the price of an asset may differ from its real value. For this reason, various markets may sometimes misprice an asset in the short run. Fundamentalists claim that despite being mispriced in the short-term, the assets will always return to the correct price eventually. The end goal of performing fundamental analysis is to discover the true value of an asset, to compare it to the current price, and to locate a trading opportunity.
This also nicely demonstrates the key difference between fundamental and technical analysis. While forex technical analysis barely pays attention to anything but the current price, fundamental analysis researches everything but the current price. Whilst it is true that fundamental analysis may not be the best tool for a short-term trader in day-to-day markets, it is the fundamental Forex factors and how they are analysed that answer what happens in the long-term.
Fundamental analysis in Forex is not just about comparing the current data of single economic indicators to previous data. There are a great number of economic theories which surround fundamental Forex analysis, attempting to put various pieces of economic data in context, to make it comparable.
The most popular economic theories of currency fundamental analysis babysit the notion of parity - a condition of price at which currencies should be exchanged when adjusted, according to their local economic factors, such as inflation and interest rates.
Understanding Fundamental Analysis in Forex
The following video explains for beginners how fundamental analysis is used to monitor major news releases, and what traders can expect to happen in the financial markets when certain data has been released.
Good News - Bad News
You may have noticed that, from the very practical standpoint of an average Forex trader, it is news reports that produce movements on the markets. There are several economic indicators that financial experts observe because they can provide guidance on the overall health of an economy.
These indicators are found in news reports and news outlets. Some are released weekly, most are released monthly and a few quarterly. The best way to keep track of such news events is with a Forex calendar, an essential tool for fundamental analysis, which provides a daily schedule of planned economic announcements.
With Forex technical analysis, new data arrives every second in the form of a price quote, whereas, fundamental indicators are only published once a week at the most. Capital flows gradually from countries where it accumulates at a potentially slower rate, compared to the countries where it could accumulate at a potentially faster rate.
That has everything to do with the strength of an economy. If an economy is forecast to hold strong, it will appear as an attractive place for foreign investment, because it is more likely to produce higher returns in the financial markets.
Following that thought, in order to invest, investors will first have to convert their capital into the currency of the country in question. Buying more of that currency will push the demand, and force the currency to appreciate.
Unfortunately, economics is not always so simple, which is why examples of healthy economies showing weakening currencies are not unknown. Currencies are not like a company's stock, they do not directly reflect the health of the economy.
Currencies are also tools that can be manipulated by the policy makers, such as central banks, and even private traders like George Soros.
When economic reports are released, traders and investors will look for signs of strengths or weaknesses in different economies. If prior to the news releases, the market sentiment leans in one direction, changing the price before the release is known as a 'priced in market'. It often causes a little commotion upon the actual data release.
Conversely, when the market is unsure - or the data results vary from what was anticipated - severe market volatility may occur. That is why beginner Forex traders are generally advised to stay away from trading around the news when practising fundamental analysis.
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Major Economic Indicators
Changes in economic data may hint towards shifts in the economic situation of a respective country, which may in turn influence the value of an economy's currency.
Interest rates are a major fundamental Forex analysis indicator. There are many kinds of interest rates, but here we will focus on the nominal or base interest rates set by an economy's central bank. Central banks create money, that money is then borrowed by private banks. The percentage or the principle that private banks pay central banks for borrowing currencies is called a base or a nominal interest rate. Whenever you hear the phrase 'interest rates', people are usually referring to that concept.
Manipulating interest rates, a big part of the national monetary or fiscal policy, is one of the primary functions of central banks. This is because interest rates are a great leveller of the economy. Interest rates are perhaps stronger than any other factor and they influence currency values. They can have an impact on inflation, investment, trade, production and unemployment.
Here is how it works:
The central banks generally wish to boost the economy and reach a government-set inflation level, so they decrease interest rates accordingly. This stimulates borrowing by both private banks and individuals, as well as stimulating consumption, production and the economy in general. Low interest rates can be a good tactic, but a poor strategy.
In the long-term, low interest rates can over-inflate the economy with cash, and can create economic bubbles, which as we know, sooner or later will set a toppling chain reaction across the economy, if not entire economies.
To avoid this, central banks can also increase interest rates, thus decreasing the amount of borrowing and leaving less money for banks, businesses and individuals to play around with. From a Forex fundamental analysis standpoint, the best place to start looking for trading opportunities is in the changing interest rates.
News releases on the level of inflation report on the fluctuations in the cost of goods over a period of time. Note that every economy has a level of what it considers 'healthy inflation' (usually in the region of 2%). Over a long period of time, as the economy grows, so should the amount of money in circulation, which is the definition of inflation. The trick is for governments and central banks to balance themselves at that self-set level.
Too much inflation tips the balance of supply and demand in favour of supply, and the currency depreciates because there is simply more of it than demanded. The converse side of the inflation coin is deflation. During deflation, the value of money increases, whilst goods and services become cheaper.
In the short run it may be a positive thing, but for the economy in the long run, it can be a negative thing. Money is fuel for the economy. Less fuel equals less movement. At some point deflation may have a drastic impact on a country, to the extent that there will hardly be enough money to keep the economy going, let alone to drive the economy forward.
Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is the measurement of all goods and services produced within an economy within a given period and is believed to be the best indicator of the overall health of an economy.
GDP on its own is not a particularly useful indicator, however, the rate of change in GDP over a period of time can tell you a lot about the health of an economy, such as whether the economy is growing or shrinking. This in turn can give you an indication of the strength of a country's currency, an increase in GDP is likely to have a positive effect on the value of a currency.
However, the relationship between economic growth, or lack thereof, and currency value is not that straightforward. As we mentioned earlier in the article, it is not unknown for a country with a strong, growing economy to have a weakening currency. Persistent high economic growth can lead to an increase in inflation, which, as we have already seen, has a negative effect on the value of a currency.
Interest rates, inflation and GDP are the three main economic indicators used in Forex fundamental analysis. They are unmatched by the amount of the economic impact that they can generate when compared to other factors such as retail sales, capital flow, traded balance, as well as bond prices and numerous additional macroeconomic and geopolitical factors. Moreover, economic indicators are not only measured against each other through time, but some of them also correlate cross-discipline and cross-borders.
You can learn more about this topic with our article about the best Forex fundamental indicators.
It is important to understand that there is a lot of economic data released that has a significant impact on the Forex market. Whether you want to or not, you need to learn how to make Forex fundamental analysis a part of your trading strategy in order to anticipate market movements.
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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.