A 'soft' EMH has emerged which does not require that prices remain at or near equilibrium, but only that market participants not be able to systematically profit from any momentary market 'inefficiencies'. Moreover, while EMH predicts that all price movement (in the absence of change in fundamental information) is random (i.e., non-trending), many studies have shown a marked tendency for the stock market to trend over time periods of weeks or longer. Various explanations for such large and apparently non-random price movements have been promulgated. For instance, some research has shown that changes in estimated risk, and the use of certain strategies, such as stop-loss limits and value at risk limits, theoretically could cause financial markets to overreact. But the best explanation seems to be that the distribution of stock market prices is non-Gaussian (in which case EMH, in any of its current forms, would not be strictly applicable).
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History has shown that the price of stocks and other assets is an important part of the dynamics of economic activity, and can influence or be an indicator of social mood. An economy where the stock market is on the rise is considered to be an up-and-coming economy. The stock market is often considered the primary indicator of a country's economic strength and development.
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In a 2003 paper by Vissing-Jørgensen attempts to explain disproportionate rates of participation along wealth and income groups as a function of fixed costs associated with investing. Her research concludes that a fixed cost of $200 per year is sufficient to explain why nearly half of all U.S. households do not participate in the market. Participation rates have been shown to strongly correlate with education levels, promoting the hypothesis that information and transaction costs of market participation are better absorbed by more educated households. Behavioral economists Harrison Hong, Jeffrey Kubik and Jeremy Stein suggest that sociability and participation rates of communities have a statistically significant impact on an individual's decision to participate in the market. Their research indicates that social individuals living in states with higher than average participation rates are 5% more likely to participate than individuals that do not share those characteristics. This phenomenon also explained in cost terms. Knowledge of market functioning diffuses through communities and consequently lowers transaction costs associated with investing.
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There are many different approaches to investing. Many strategies can be classified as either fundamental analysis or technical analysis. Fundamental analysis refers to analyzing companies by their financial statements found in SEC filings, business trends, general economic conditions, etc. Technical analysis studies price actions in markets through the use of charts and quantitative techniques to attempt to forecast price trends regardless of the company's financial prospects. One example of a technical strategy is the Trend following method, used by John W. Henry and Ed Seykota, which uses price patterns and is also rooted in risk control and diversification.
According to one interpretation of the efficient-market hypothesis (EMH), only changes in fundamental factors, such as the outlook for margins, profits or dividends, ought to affect share prices beyond the short term, where random 'noise' in the system may prevail. The 'hard' efficient-market hypothesis does not explain the cause of events such as the crash in 1987, when the Dow Jones Industrial Average plummeted 22.6 percent—the largest-ever one-day fall in the United States.