Introduction to financial markets
Introduction to the Financial Markets
Financial markets are an essential part of the global economy, providing a platform for people and companies to buy and sell assets. These assets can range from shares, indices, currencies, to commodities and more. In this article, we will explore what financial markets are and some key concepts that you need to know before investing.
What are Financial Markets?
Financial markets are platforms where buyers and sellers come together to trade financial assets. These markets facilitate the flow of capital and provide a means for companies to raise funds quickly. Financial markets have been around for centuries, but today they are larger and more accessible than ever before. Previously, they were mainly used by big banks, finance houses, and wealthy individuals, but now anyone with an internet connection can trade in financial markets.
There are different types of financial assets, and they fall into various categories known as asset classes. Some of the most popular asset classes include:
Shares – These are also known as equities or stocks. When you buy shares, you are investing in a particular company that is listed on a stock exchange. Examples of well-known companies include Apple, Microsoft, or BP.
Indices – An index tracks the price of a group of shares. The S&P 500 is an example of a widely traded index, measuring some of the largest listed companies in the US.
Currencies – Also known as forex or FX, currency markets allow traders to buy and sell different currencies around the world. Currencies are traded 24 hours a day, and you can trade everything from the US dollar to the Hungarian forint.
Commodities – These are physical assets that are consumed or used by people, animals, or industry. Notable examples include oil, gold, and wheat.
What Affects the Markets?
The price of a financial asset is primarily driven by the fundamental principle of supply and demand. If demand for an asset is high, but the supply is limited, the price will rise. Conversely, if demand is low, but the supply is high, the price will fall.
Several factors can cause supply or demand to fluctuate, such as news, central bank policy, company results, and government data. For instance, government releases can affect demand, with unemployment data or inflation data offering insights into the strength of an economy, which may make it more attractive to investors.
Who Trades Financial Markets?
Several groups of people and companies participate in financial markets, including institutional investors, brokers, banks, and retail investors. Institutional investors, such as pension funds and asset managers, participate in financial markets to make profits for themselves and their customers. Brokers place trades on behalf of their clients, while banks act as brokers for other companies, such as funds. Retail investors and traders can participate in financial markets by investing in funds, buying shares or actively trading the markets through spread bets and CFDs.
Before trading in financial markets, there are several key concepts that you need to understand. These include bulls and bears, volatility, and liquidity.
Bulls vs. Bears – Bulls and bears are terms used to describe market participants with a positive or negative view of an asset, respectively. When bulls outnumber bears in a market, the demand is high, and prices rise, creating a bull market. On the other hand, when bears outnumber bulls, demand is low, and prices move lower, creating a bear market.
Volatility – Volatility is a measure of how much an asset’s price swings up and down over time. Highly volatile markets see significant moves, which create many profit opportunities but also bring increased risk.
Liquidity – Liquidity is how easily a financial market can be bought or sold. If an asset has many potential buyers and sellers at any given time, it is highly liquid, and you should be able to trade it easily without affecting its price too much. If buyers and sellers are scarce, then you may struggle to find a suitable trade. Liquidity is an important factor in financial markets, as it enables traders to move quickly and keeps prices competitive.
Liquidity and Volatility in Forex
Forex, or foreign exchange, is the world’s most-traded market, with over $5 trillion traded daily. As a result, it is highly liquid, and traders can buy and sell currencies easily. However, forex is also highly volatile, with prices fluctuating rapidly due to various economic and political factors. Traders with a high risk appetite might look for volatile assets, while the more risk-averse will invest in markets that typically see less severe price movement.
In summary, financial markets provide a platform for people and companies to buy and sell assets, ranging from shares, indices, currencies, to commodities and more. The price of an asset is primarily driven by the fundamental principle of supply and demand, and various factors can cause supply or demand to fluctuate. Before investing in financial markets, it’s essential to understand key concepts such as bulls and bears, volatility, and liquidity. By doing so, you can make informed decisions and mitigate risks while investing in the financial markets.