Subject matter can be divided into two areas, and it is important to know about both.
Macro issues include things like the economy (both of the UK/Europe and the world), the indices that are the barometers of the various stock exchanges, and the general trade flows around the world.
Micro issues are concerned with the fortunes of individual companies.
Coverage of both micro and macro issues in the financial press is of two types. Firstly, there is fact, and secondly, opinion. It is important to read both on a regular basis and to be able to discuss them.
Which publications to read?
The Financial Times is, of course, the main international business daily. There is an excellent website, ft.com, but it is good training to learn to read the newspaper. Read the facts, then the opinion: the two left hand columns on the front page first (facts) and then turn to the back of the second section and read the markets report.
The FT will tell you at a glance (at the bottom of the first page in the World Markets section) what the world's major indices closed at the night before. Take particular note of the FTSE 100, the US indices (the S&P Composite, the Nasdaq, the Dow Jones) and the Nikkei.
After that, read the Lex column, on the back page of the first section. This is the most influential opinion column and journalists who worked on Lex have gone on to well-paid jobs as analysts in the finance industry. Other Lex writers have started their own, often new-technology, ventures - such as breakingviews.com. Internationally respected commentators writing in the FT include Phillip Coggan, Samuel Brittain and Martin Wolf. Anything with their bylines on is worth a read.
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Financial News (owner of this eFinancialCareers site) is the trade newspaper for the securities and investment banking industries.
A useful preparation tool for graduates when applying to or interviewing at a potential employer is to do a company search for recent news stories on the archived website www.efinancialnews.com. In addition to the news coverage are the opinion pieces - a popular one is written by eFN columnist Ian Kerr.
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The Economist is probably the most accessible read for the macro issues. Partial website access at www.economist.com is free, with full access available only to subscribers again, students can get a discount.
The articles are a combination of facts and opinion and carry no bylines. If you haven't the time or the inclination to read the whole thing, then start by reading the two synopsis pages - the week in politics and the week in business. Then browse the UK section, the business and economics section and the finance section.
Finally, the finance pages of the broadsheets are worth reading as and when you come across them. The daily papers all have good and experienced city editors and offer coverage of company news as well as some opinion columns.
The "gossip" columns here are worth reading for some lighthearted relief after a diet of economic and market statistics. The Sunday papers have sizeable business sections that are widely read, so they, too, are worth a look to catch current sentiment.
Preparing well for interview means having an informed opinion on the stock markets and their role as a mechanism for the transfer of capital. The fast-moving nature of these markets means that it is impossible to get the whole story from textbooks.
If you are keen on making a career in the financial industry, then the financial pages should be come a regular feature of your week, if not your day.