Understanding the Impact of Speculative Investing

February 16, 20248 min read
Understanding the Impact of Speculative Investing
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Key Takeaways 

  • Unlike traditional investing, which focuses on the investment’s value, speculative traders seek to profit from upward or downward price movements.
  • Speculation carries significant risk due to the unpredictable nature of price changes and market volatility. 
  • Speculators help with commodities market efficiency and prevent shortages of goods for consumers.

In the financial arena, there are numerous kinds of traders with varying approaches. A common type is the speculative trader. This article covers what this form of trading involves, including strategies and risks, and its potential impact on markets and financial success. It will also explain how speculative trading differs from traditional investing.

Speculative Trading 

With traditional investing, the focus is on the investment’s core essential values. By contrast, speculative traders seek to profit from upward or downward price movements.

As the term “speculation” implies, the trader is not moored to a single trajectory. Rather, they “speculate” as to whether a price will increase or decrease, then buy or sell accordingly. If they predict correctly, they make money. The opposite is also true. There are opportunities for high profits as well as high losses.

By making moves when other investors are holding, speculators play a key role in financial markets in that they take on extra risk and provide needed liquidity. They narrow marketplace gaps between an asset’s asking and bidding price. 

Speculation can also cause panic in volatile markets. Investors who are losing begin to sell off their positions, which suppresses their stocks even more. In turn, this leads to further selling.

In addition to individual traders, speculators can be portfolio managers, proprietary trading firms and market makers. Other participants include commodity trading companies and hedge funds. Note that with hedging, the aim is to mitigate prospective losses from adverse price changes over time. 

Meanwhile, arbitrageurs often seek to benefit from market inefficiencies. In other words, they aim to profit from the varying prices of the same assets in separate markets.

How Does Speculation Work?

In the stock market, speculation is basically investing in assets that have a probability of loss, but with the hope for large gains. Generally, speculative stocks perform better in robust bull markets when investors are open to more risk. 

In real estate, anticipated profits are based on changes predicted in local market conditions — not physical enhancements or rents. More simply, some real estate investors engaging in speculation focus on purchasing properties they can renovate and sell for profit.

Meanwhile, bond speculation usually involves buying speculative-grade bonds, also known as junk bonds. Because they have a lower credit rating, such bonds carry more risk.

There are a number of strategies implemented by speculators, including short selling. This occurs when a security is borrowed then sold on the open market, with plans for it to be repurchased later for less money. They bet on decreases in securities’ profits, with designs on profits.

Another prominent strategy is investing in high-risk assets. With this approach, the expectation is for large returns. Rather than maintain long-term investment strategies, speculators aim to leverage market changes for optimal gains.

When making investment decisions, speculators consider a host of factors, including interest rate changes, news events, and company credit ratings. They pay close attention to short-term factors that can swiftly change.

Interest vs. Speculating 

In investing, decisions are generally rendered based on fundamental analysis, often using performance metrics, as well as research. Speculators, meanwhile, seek to predict price movements then profit from such changes.

Primarily, though, the heightened risk of spectating is the chief difference. While investors are more inclined toward low-medium risk strategies, speculators are more apt to take higher risks for prospectively higher rewards.

Compared to traditional investors, speculators usually function in a shorter time frame. Non-speculative investments are usually part of long-term investment strategies. Assets here may rise in value over a longer period and may provide income during investor ownership.

What are Speculative Investments?

Speculative investments are characterized by high risk and relatively shorter time frames. In an example, say a trader assumes that the value of Bitcoin will keep rising against the dollar. They speculate on the price rise by going long on Bitcoin CFDs, focusing on a short-term price increase, and not considering possible long-term growth.

Foreign currencies is a type of speculative investment that involves purchasing and selling currency pairs such as EUR/USD. Here, the value of one currency drops while the other increases. Speculators seek to profit off the value change.

Hard commodities such as precious metals — silver, gold, copper, etc. — are speculative investments with fluctuating prices. Such prices are based on factors including inflation and supply and demand.

Also, cryptocurrencies are viewed as speculative due to price fluctuations, the high risk involved, and prospects for high returns. Similarly, bond market prices fluctuate a great deal depending on economic and political conditions and interest rate changes.

Speculative Investments vs. Gambling

Overall, speculative investments involve calculated risks and expected returns despite uncertain outcomes. Gambling, meanwhile, means betting money with uncertain outcomes and mere hopes of winning.

Gamblers often disregard lofty risk levels for potentially high returns. On the other hand, speculators generally determine risk vs. reward.

Why Speculation is a Risky Investment Strategy

Speculation carries significant risk due to the unpredictable nature of price changes and market volatility. Participation results in an uncertain degree of loss or gain. That is largely why managing such investments requires more time and knowledge than traditional investing.

Speculative Trading

Speculative trading involves taking a position in an asset with the belief that, in a short period, its value will increase. 

Participants might employ tactics such as using stop-loss orders, tweaking their position size, or charting their trading performance metrics each day. They also may use leverage as a tool to heighten exposure to financial markets.

Note that speculative trading permits investors to profit from market price movements in upward and downward directions.

Another example of a speculative trade is what is called a black swan event such as the 2008 financial crisis. That global crisis resulted from the housing market bubble that started taking shape the year before. Reduced interest rates lowered borrowing, causing an increase in home prices as borrowers took out loans they could not afford. Repackaged loans created a subprime secondary market. 

Ultimately, home buying saturated the market, causing tumbling home prices and collapsing the economy. Some hedgers speculated and profited from the crisis after predicting the bubble, shorting the market against subprime deals.

How Speculation Affects Stocks

Speculation can cause panic selling, which occurs when a large number of investors seek to sell their holdings simultaneously, creating a price drop. That decrease frightens other investors into selling, which causes prices to decrease even more. In turn, that could intimidate even more investors. For long-term growth, it is important to invest in quality companies.

Speculation can hurt stocks by heightening volatility and the speed with which prices fluctuate, fomenting uncertainty. On the other hand, active trading adds needed liquidity to the market.

How Speculation Affects Commodities 

In addition to liquidity, which serves to grease the wheels of markets, hedging opportunities affect commodities in that they minimize cash flow fluctuations. In turn, this insulates companies from the effect of volatility.

Speculators help with commodities market efficiency and prevent shortages of goods for consumers. How? By bidding prices up when prices drop and financing those who connect supply chains.

How Speculation Affects Currencies

The speculative movement of funds — based on a belief that the fund is under- or overvalued — can cause a currency to appreciate or depreciate. Such movements can result in changes in currency valuations.

Central banks play an essential role in minimizing currency market speculation risk. They can put in place capital controls, for example, which cap amounts that can be invested in the currency market. Speculation can result in currency appreciation or depreciation, affecting short-term foreign exchange prices.

Overall, currency speculation is volatile and high risk. However, it is also viewed as an important tool for companies and investors to manage currency risk.

Alternative Investments vs. Speculative Investments 

The overall goal of investing in alternatives — asset classes other than stocks and bonds — is to increase wealth over the long term while minimizing risk. The chief goal of speculation, meanwhile, is to turn fast profits by leveraging market changes.

Alternative investments such as art and real estate offer portfolio diversification, which can lessen risk and potentially improve returns.

While no investment is without risk — speculation is particularly so —  alternative investment platform Yieldstreet mitigates risk by subjecting its private-market offerings to a stringent vetting process.

Yieldstreet, on which $4 billion has been invested to date, offers more asset classes than any other platform. And while speculation focuses on public markets, private markets have outperformed stocks in each downturn of the last 15+ years. Building a more modern portfolio composed of an asset mix is key to long-term investing success.

Invest in Alternative Assets

Diversify your portfolio with private market investment offerings.

Alternative Investments and Portfolio Diversification

 Alternative investments can be a good way to help accomplish this. Traditional portfolio asset allocation envisages a 60% public stock and 40% fixed income allocation. However, a more balanced 60/20/20 or 50/30/20 split, incorporating alternative assets, may make a portfolio less sensitive to public market short-term swings. 

Real estate, private equity, venture capital, digital assets, precious metals and collectibles are among the asset classes deemed “alternative investments.” Broadly speaking, such investments tend to be less connected to public equity, and thus offer potential for diversification. Of course, like traditional investments, it is important to remember that alternatives also entail a degree of risk. 

 In some cases, this risk can be greater than that of traditional investments.

 This is why these asset classes were traditionally accessible only to an exclusive base of wealthy individuals and institutional investors buying in at very high minimums — often between $500,000 and $1 million.  These people were considered to be more capable of weathering losses of that magnitude, should the investments underperform.

 However, Yieldstreet has opened a number of carefully curated alternative investment strategies to all investors. While the risk is still there, the company offers help in capitalizing on areas such as real estate, legal finance, art finance and structured notes — as well as a wide range of other unique alternative investments. 

Moreover, investors can get started with a relatively small amount of capital. Yieldstreet has opportunities across a broad range of asset classes, offering a variety of yields and durations, with minimum investments as low as $10000.

Learn more about the ways Yieldstreet can help diversify and grow portfolios.

In Summary 

To identify profit opportunities, traders seek out price discrepancies, news events, and market fluctuations. The strategy ultimately employed will depend on the trader’s risk threshold and financial resources. Note, though, that not everyone has the skill set to become a speculator, which generally is time intensive and carries higher levels of volatility. There are alternate ways to invest that can diversify portfolios and potentially improve returns.

We believe our 10 alternative asset classes, track record across 470+ investments, third party reviews, and history of innovation makes Yieldstreet “The leading platform for private market investing,” as compared to other private market investment platforms.

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