By Carl Gutierrez March 11, 2013
The Bloomberg Terminal is one of several services that provide subscribers with instant access to critical financial and economic data. In many newsrooms, Bloomberg (and similar services like Thomson Reuters, FactSet, Morningstar and Standard & Poor’s) connects journalists to live stock prices, the latest economic indicators and even breaking news. Those are the basics.
As with any technology, reporters who want to dig a little deeper with a Bloomberg terminal must learn new functions.
Below are seven functions that can help business journalists uncover new stories or provide support in reporting out the ones they’re working on.
The Federal Budget Highlights function tells you how much the government spent – and where they spent it – in each of the last fifty years.
The function includes full-year budget breakdowns by federal agency (Defense, Energy, Education, etc.) and government function (the Postal Service, federal law enforcement, etc.). Ever wanted to know how much the government spent on “atomic energy defense activities” in 1962? $2.1 billion. It wasn’t hard to find.
The function also provides a list of each agency’s 10 largest contractors and by how much their contracts grew or shrank over the prior year.
When company insiders like board members suddenly buy large amounts of their firm’s stock, it’s often a signal that they expect a bounce in share price. Good news is coming, or at least they expect it is.
The function <INSD> lists all of the stocks insiders are buying – and selling – around the world. The table can be sorted by the number of insiders or the market value of the movement. You can also choose to look only at a particular sector of the market.
You can also look at insider trading for a particular stock with the GPTR function.
Investors who believe a particular stock will soon take a dive can bet on that dip by doing what’s known as shorting: borrowing the stock now in order to sell it, but waiting until the price drops before actually buying it. The price difference between where the stock is sold and where it’s eventually bought is the investor’s profit.
Like insider trading, a company’s short interest can be a harbinger of a larger stock movement driven by a big story. (Apple’s short interest ratio nearly doubled about a month before its shares fell off a cliff.) The function <SI> shows how much a company’s short interest has moved relative to its share price or to its broader sector.
Every quarter, institutional investors must report any significant stock sale or purchase to the government in what’s known as a 13F filing.
The function <FLNG> allows you to sift through 13F filings to get a sense of what investors like Warren Buffett and Carl Icahn did with their money over the prior quarter. The function displays a table of the investor’s holdings and can be sorted by how much they increased or reduced their position in each.
The health of the market for new publically traded companies is generally a good indicator of credit conditions and general market liquidity. So looking at how many companies went public over a given period can give you some sense of how freely money is changing hands.
The Bloomberg terminal compiles information about who went public and how much stock they offered when they did. The <IPO> function breaks down these offerings by region and industry over a particular period of time. So you can learn quickly, for example, that over the last year, as the price of oil slipped, 34 energy companies have gone public in North America, down from 77 a year ago.
Trends in industry consolidation – when one company mergers with or acquires another – can help you put individual deals in context, but they can also make for interesting stories on their own. For example, rising costs at the nation’s airlines have ushered in wave of buyouts to make better use of economies of scale.
The terminal’s <MA> function compiles and displays mergers and acquisitions much in the same way the <IPO> function compiles and displays offerings. The landing page allows you to sort by deal size, industry, region and adviser. The “activity trend” section lists the number and volume of deals, as well as the average premium paid, for the last 20 quarters.
One common way to look at recent trends in the equity markets is to do a stock screen. Imagine taking the entire universe of publically traded companies and filtering them through criteria you select based on a thesis you’ve got about where the market is headed. The result: Stock picks you can present to your readers and justify with your market thesis.
Many websites offer free stock screening tools, but the <EQS> function in the terminal is intuitive and fairly easy to use. Want to see which American companies made more than $80 billion in sales last year? Add the criteria step by step, starting with “Revenue,” followed by “Greater Than,” followed by “80B.” (The answer is 30.) You also want to make sure you’re set to U.S. dollars and focused on the S&P 500 Index.
Carl Gutierrez is a data producer at Bloomberg. Prior to that, he covered the stock market and breaking news for Forbes.
This entry was posted on Monday, March 11th, 2013 at 4:50 am. It is filed under Tools & Resources and tagged with 13F, Bloomberg, budget, insider trading, IPO, M&A, stock screen, Terminal. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
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