In finance, speculation is a financial action that does not promise safety of the initial investment along with the return on the principal sum. Speculation typically involves the lending of money or the purchase of assets, equity or debt but in a manner that has not been given thorough analysis or is deemed to have low margin of safety or a significant risk of the loss of the principal investment. The term, "speculation," which is formally defined as above in Graham and Dodd's 1934 text, Security Analysis, contrasts with the term "investment," which is a financial operation that, upon thorough analysis, promises safety of principal and a satisfactory return.
In a financial context, the terms "speculation" and "investment" are actually quite specific. For instance, although the word "investment" is typically used, in a general sense, to mean any act of placing money in a financial vehicle with the intent of producing returns over a period of time, most ventured money—including funds placed in the world's stock markets—is actually not investment, but speculation.
Speculators may rely on an asset appreciating in price due to any of a number of factors that cannot be well enough understood by the speculator to make an investment-quality decision. Some such factors are shifting consumer tastes, fluctuating economic conditions, buyers' changing perceptions of the worth of a stock security, economic factors associated with market timing, the factors associated with solely chart-based analysis, and the many influences over the short-term movement of securities.
There are also some financial vehicles that are, by definition, speculation. For instance, trading commodity futures contracts, such as for oil and gold, is, by definition, speculation. Short selling is also, by definition, speculative.
Financial speculation can involve the buying, holding, selling, and short-selling of stocks, bonds, commodities, currencies, collectibles, real estate, derivatives, or any valuable financial instrument to profit from fluctuations in its price, irrespective of its underlying value.
In architecture speculation is used to determine works that show a strong conceptual and strategic focus.
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