What are Economic Indicators?
There are a number of economic indicators that offer statistical information about a countries economic activity. Used mostly as a ‘pre-view’ of sorts to establish performance, patterns and prediction on future performance within an economy, such as a business cycle. The article will take a look at the various types of economic indicators, the importance of their use during trading as well as where to find the relevant indicators per country.
Economic indicators are scheduled economic data releases, declarations and announcements by leading factors in the financial arena. There are many indicators, and each of them differs from the other in their place of origin, target audience and effect on the various financial markets. For convenience purposes we separated the indicators by region – starting with the US indicators, followed by the European indicators and to the Asian indicators. View our economic calendar to see upcoming economic events.
Types of Economic Indicators
The indicators’ frequencies vary from one indicator to the other; some are daily, others monthly and several are quarterly. Before the indicator occurs there are speculations made by leading financial figures, and traders base their moves on those speculations. An economic event has a double influence; first when announced, and second when compared to the speculations made before. A big difference between the speculation and the actual number can cause shifts in the market.
Examples of economic indicators include:
- Unemployment rate
- Interest rates
- New building permits
- Federal funds rate
- Changes in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP)
- Consumer Price Index (Inflation)
- Currency Strength
- Corporate Profits
- Balance of Trade
Each indicator can affect more than its own market. For instance, if a government issued a statement that more building permits were given, it will result with more jobs, lowering the unemployed rate and thus leading to higher consumption rate and ending with the strengthening of the local currency.
Economic Indicator Examples
An example of an indicator with a major impact is the Non-Farm Payrolls (NFP), published on each month’s first Friday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This report reveals change in the number of employed people in the US from the previous month, excluding the farming industry. That covers approximately 80% of the US work force. An increase in the number of newly employed people usually indicates the market is growing. As a result, the American Dollar will grow stronger. If a trader speculated that beforehand, and opened buying positions prior to the announcement – the outcomes would be to his favour. Naturally, if the there is a slowdown in employment the Dollar will weaken. Either way, the NFP and the speculations beforehand will cause vibrations in different instruments.
The most recent Euro centric example would be the ECB Interest Rate Decision, that is announced by the European Central Bank. If the ECB are hawkish about the inflationary outlook of the European economy and they raise the interest rates, it is seen as a positive sign for the EUR and the trend would be on a bullish curve. The opposite would be true for the ECB if they keep the current interest rate going, or they decide to cut the interest rate the EUR will suffer and be on a bearish trend. Should the outcome of the indicator be as expected the EUR will not see much impact, however if the predicted outcome is not as expected the element of ‘surprise’ will have the greater market impact.
The Caixin Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) is a specific measurement of nationwide manufacturing activity, where attention is given to smaller and medium-sized companies. The news came in during the December 2015 announcement, that this month’s PMI came in lower than the expected figure. The general fear is that, as a result, manufacturers continue to cut on their staff numbers in turn lowering their production output.
Other types of Economic Indicator review market growth demand and supply figures and many other factors that impact markets, instruments, companies and traders as one.
The Importance of an Economic Calendar
The key to the success for most traders is a frequently updated economic calendar. The calendar covers all important events and releases that affect the forex markets as well as the economy of a specific country. A great understanding of why markets do what they do, can be found on these calendars while traders are able to anticipate market moves based on previous, actual and forecasted numbers. With the release of key economic data such as NFP, GDP, etc figures present excellent trading opportunities.