Sometimes you're expecting a given piece of news, or interpreting a piece of news that just came out. And amazingly, the market does the precise contrary of what you'd expect it to do under the circumstances.
Putting aside the very usual fact that markets quite often turn on news events (the so-called "buy the rumor, sell the news"), there is also something else at work here.
Put simply, the market can quite often interpret the same piece of news on completely contradictory ways, for no particular reason.
In the past 6 months, the Yen is down heavily. The reason? The Bank of Japan is printing left and right, and as everybody knows, printing money leads to currency weakness. It's thus no surprise that the Yen is imploding.
But wait. The Federal Reserve is doing exactly the same! And guess what, in the last 6 months the U.S. Dollar is up strongly, not down. On precisely the same kind of policy, to boot. So why is currency printing bad for the Yen but good for the Dollar? Well, the rationalization would be that the printing in the U.S. is making the economy better, so the Dollar strengthens. Obviously, any kind of rationalization is just that … a rationalization. The true driver is just one of supply and demand, and on the same piece of news people have decided to sell Yen, but to buy Dollars.
This even applies to stocks
All along its ascent, Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) carried low earnings multiples. Why? Because with each conquest, the fear was that it would be the last conquest, that the summit had been reached. And when the summit was indeed reached (at least for a while), then Apple got punished yet again.
At the same time, each time Amazon.com (NASDAQ:AMZN) presented horrid earnings -- and this repeated itself quarter after quarter for two and a half years - the posture was different. The posture was always "well, yes, these were horrid, but they're investing and soon they'll be producing huge earnings!". Never mind that just getting to where Amazon.com was during 2010 would already be like climbing the Everest.
Not just a game of expectations
The first thing someone would say here was that it's all a game of expectations. That, too, wouldn't quite capture it. Amazon.com's expectations always went down along with earnings. Apple's mostly went up. Plus nobody really believes the Federal Reserve is doing anything to build a sustainable future, or Bank of Japan for that matter (but at least there the currency implodes).
Demand and supply, allocation
Whatever the reasons, it all comes down to demand and supply for the assets. That's pretty obvious. But what dictates demand and supply is the allocation that all investors want to any given asset. That allocation can be influenced by fundamental factors where news would be relevant, but it can also be influenced by what investors think other investors will do in those assets.
This perhaps gives credence to the phrase "you have nothing to fear but fear itself". The reason why the Yen drops is because everybody dumps it. The reason why the USD climbs is because people don't dump it, at least not yet. At least until they fear others might dump it themselves.
In the markets, this applies to almost everything and can explain why everything is dandy regarding Greek and Portuguese debt one day, and nobody wants to touch it the next day. The reasons not to hold it -- the news saying one ought not to hold it - were certainly well-known years ago. But as long as others hold it, nobody sees a problem in doing likewise.
This is perhaps something which should be kept in mind when holding, say, U.S. Dollars or Amazon.com stock. The reasons not to hold those are well-known now, but since others are still holding, nobody has a problem with them. This won't last forever.
While taking place, many news can be used by the market to run either way. Indeed, the same piece of news can be used to run both up and down. But at some point, if a given development has deep fundamental implications, it usually ends up having an effect. This effect usually comes when those, sedated by the others' willingness to hold a given asset, see such willingness melting away.
Disclosure: I am short AMZN. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.