As an investor you will wish to know the health of the economy, the specific condition of various industries, and the activities of individual companies. Here's the bad news: the only way to do this is to educate yourself by reading the business sections of the newspapers and becoming familiar with market jargon.
This may seem to be a great deal to absorb, but much of it will be information you normally pick up, anyway. Only now you will be applying it for its special relevance to your new interest in investment.
Political and social developments, you will find, can have an immediate or eventual effect on stock prices as readily as economic factors. When the Suez Canal was closed, stocks of companies obtaining appreciable amounts of oil from the Middle East reacted adversely, while domestic oils advanced, anticipating a greater demand on their production. Washington, in all its ramifications, can alter the course of the market. The President, the Congress, the Supreme Court, and all the attendant government agencies, bureaus, and committees can take action influencing the prospects for companies or industries.
Projections of the President's Council of Economic Advisors are important. Congressional action on the corporate tax structure, on the extent and direction of military spending, or on labor legislation can have far-reaching effect on business. So can a Supreme Court ruling or an opinion of the Justice Department. The Bureau of Internal Revenue's corporate or personal tax rulings, the Commodity Credit Corporation's policies on commodity prices and lending, the Commerce Department's business forecasts, the Farm Credit Administration's schedule of prices for agricultural products, the Interstate Commerce Commission's rulings on railroad freight rates the list of actions and possible reactions is virtually endless.
The power of state utility commissions to regulate rates, the wages-and-hours demands of labor unions, and such revolutionary administrative decisions as that of New York, some years back, for the first time permitting certain trusts to invest funds in common stocks have direct impact on the financial and investment world.
Read widely and read regularly. Among other things, most financial information is carried in the form of charts, indexes, and averages that won't make much sense until you have enough background to compare them with last month, the previous quarter, or a year ago.
Don't expect to have hot tips or inside information revealed to you. Most of the available market material is in the public domain, and the professionals have seen and digested it before you. In any event, you are not yet ready to outwit the experts. You are interested in getting into the habit of informing yourself and of staying alert to changes and trends. It will take a powerful lot of reading to decide whether Gulf is a better oil company than Standard of California, or whether General Mills grind finer than Pillsbury. But if you want to know what new products or what new ventures a corporation is undertaking, or how one segment of industry is going compared with another, or what some analyst thinks of a certain stock, your reading will tell you.
In time, you will become selective. You will want to stay abreast of general business and market news, but, unless you are dealing in commodities, you will not pay much attention to the grain markets or coffee, sugar and onion futures. And you will probably not memorize freight-car loadings except insofar as you want an indication of how the railroads are getting along. In summation, it might seem like a lot to take on at first, but soon you'll find yourself breezing through the paper, absorbing information that will allow you to make investment decisions with relative ease and confidence.