When you own stock in a company, you’re more sensitive to information related to that stock. That’s because, in general, good news causes stock prices to go up and bad news causes stock prices to go down.
In this article we’ll review many of the common reasons that companies are in the news and when it matters to stock prices. We’ll also look at why, at times, stock price movement can move in the opposite way that was expected by the news item.
The Significance of Earnings Reports
In general, investors should pay the closest attention to any news that is likely to impact a company’s revenue and earnings potential. An earnings report is one of the best examples of a news item that affects stock price performance.
An earnings report gives investors a look at the company’s performance in the past quarter. It also gives company management an opportunity to offer their forecast for the next quarter or several quarters. Publicly traded companies are covered by buy side and sell side analysts who offer ratings (Buy, Hold, Sell, etc.) and a price target for where they believe the company’s stock price will be in the next 12 months. Since analysts have significant access to company management, their forecasts carry a lot of weight with investors.
When companies report revenue and/or earnings that are higher than expected investors see it as a bullish signal and the stock price tends to move higher. Conversely when companies report lower than expected revenue and/or earnings it is seen as a bearish signal and the stock price tends to move lower.
However, this is an imperfect correlation. At times, a company will deliver results that beat expectations but the results will not be as compelling of a beat as investors hoped for. In this case, a stock may drop despite an otherwise good report. In the same way, there are times when a company delivers results that are “less bad” than investors may have feared causing the stock price to rise.
The Market is Always Forward Thinking
One reason for this price movement around earnings is that the market is always forward thinking. Simply put, the price that a stock sells for today reflects what institutional investors believe is the stock’s fair value due to their outlook for market conditions. So when a company delivers results that are contrary to the expectations of institutional investors, it can have a significant impact on share price.
This brings up another key point about the significance of news items. That is, the market hates uncertainty. On a macroeconomic level, investors saw this at the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020. Because there were so many unknowns, institutional investors began to quickly lower their price targets for many companies. And as many investors remember, the uneven pace of the reopening in 2021 led to a volatile year in stocks as institutional investors were trying to deal with uncertainty.
Other Examples of News Stories That Move Stocks
Other examples of news items that may affect a company’s top and bottom lines are things such as new product launches, dividend or stock buybacks (i.e. share repurchases). In each case, these events point to a likely increase in revenue and /or earnings.
Conversely, negative events may include product recalls, dividend cuts and lawsuits filed against a company. Although some of these events may turn out to not have a significant effect on a stock’s long-term performance, they each create a level of uncertainty.
And every month, investors receive a slew of government reports that fall into the category of economic indicators. These include information about employment, inflation, and consumer confidence. Some of these event are leading indicators meaning they’re projecting what experts believe will happen. Others are lagging indicators which reveal conditions that are already present in the economy.
Every Event Has Winners and Losers
There are certain events that are bullish for some sectors but bearish for others. Take for example a hurricane or tornado. In the short term, utility stocks and insurance stocks may be affected because they will bear the brunt of the restoration process. However, it may be a bullish event for sectors such as lumber and home improvement because demand for these products is likely to increase.
Don’t Try to Time the Market
A common mistake investors make is attempting to time the market based on expected news. For example, they may buy a company’s stock in advance of the earnings report because they expect favorable news. On the contrary, they may sell stock if they anticipate a negative earnings report.
However, this is an approach that’s more akin to gambling than investing. It’s possible to be right, but you’re equally likely to be wrong. This is because, as noted above, institutional investors have already priced the stock based on what they anticipate will happen, not the news itself. This is the reason behind the statement, “Buy the rumor, sell the news.”
A better approach is to wait for the news item to settle before making your assessment. Frequently a stock may move higher after earnings, but then drop just as quickly once investors have time to digest the results.
How Much Importance Should Retail Investors Give to Trending News
If you’re a long-term investor, you can likely ignore the short-term impact from a news event. Good companies don’t suddenly become bad. And individual investors, particularly those who have a long position, should not be as concerned with quarterly performance as institutional investors.
So in some cases, investors who are holding a stock for the long term can use a sell-off as an opportunity to purchase additional shares at a discount. And conversely, they may use a rally as an opportunity to take some profits while still maintaining their position in a stock.