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What Are Headwinds and Tailwinds In Finance? (Explained!)

Jamey Muller
Updated: July 6, 2022
5 min read

Headwinds and tailwinds are nautical terms used to describe the direction of the wind when sailing. When used in business and finance, they mean a bit differently.

What are headwinds and tailwinds in financial investments? How can they affect your profits and revenue?

Here’s What Headwinds and Tailwinds in Financial Investments Are:

Tailwinds are positive factors and events that help increase growth in your finances. Headwinds are the opposite. They slow down progress and have adverse effects on your revenues. In an economy, a headwind for one sector can be a tailwind for the other, and vice versa.

Both terms have their origins in sailing. A tailwind is a wind blowing from behind. The forward motion of its direction helps ships move forward more quickly and with less drag.

In the financial world, tailwinds are those conditions that help your business progress.

Meanwhile, a headwind blows wind in opposing forward motion. This restricts a ship’s movement and makes it difficult to move ahead. In business, headwinds are the situations that make growth challenging.

Many factors can present as either a tailwind or headwind. These include regulations, exchange rates, and other external forces.

Crucial analyses of different situations are necessary to avoid losses.

No business journey is free from obstacles. Headwinds may slow down the growth of many enterprises, but these turbulences may also strengthen them.

Lucrative companies see headwinds as opportunities for reinvention.

They turn these crises into prospects, transforming them into tailwinds that benefit them.


What’s the Headwind and Tailwind Formula?

Tailwinds in finance refer to conditions that lead to higher profits and revenue, while headwinds cause a decline.

For instance, oil prices falling is a tailwind for the airline industries, as jet fuel remains their most significant expense.

Other industries that tend to gain from such tailwinds are automobiles, transportation, and retail.

Companies like FedEx and UPS that provide shipping and freight services will benefit from the dwindling value of oil products since fuel costs constitute a significant outflow in their service line.

Lower oil prices also often lead to higher car sales.

More consumers are likely to choose more expensive, less fuel-efficient models since they can afford fuel costs.

For retail, consumers are encouraged to spend more on travel, food, and entertainment if they can save more from fuel expenses.

On the other hand, there is an inverse relationship between fuel prices and the stocks of oil companies.

The falling oil prices will negatively impact oil companies and other related sectors. Their stocks underperform as investors anticipate reduced profitability from these corporations.

The plummet in oil price acts as a headwind, rescinding profits and market value growth.

This is an excellent example of when a tailwind for one sector is a headwind for another.

Many factors can be both headwinds and tailwinds for companies. 

Foreign investments, changes in interest rates, and uncontrolled liquidity in stocks and holdings are prime examples at the macroeconomic level.

Meanwhile, some microeconomic factors are reduced demand and increased interest costs.

Companies are forced to change budget allocations to overcome the headwinds of such cases.

Specifically, the decrease in consumer demands and surge in interest costs may lead to cost-cutting in production and purchasing of raw materials.

What’s the Cause for a Headwind in Financial Investments?

Changes in politics, the economy, and the stock market may be the causes of tailwinds in finance and business.

Government instability and political tensions will serve as headwinds to the economy and development, affecting companies and enterprises.

A country’s economic condition likewise has a potent effect on businesses. For instance, recessions will lead to the world stock markets plunging.

Natural disasters, health crises, and other unexpected scenarios can negatively affect economic growth and development. The Covid-19 pandemic acted as a headwind for many companies, resulting in businesses shutting down and increasing unemployment rates.

If an industry manifests a decline in growth, this will cause its stock prices to plummet.

Headwinds may be classified as macroeconomic and microeconomic. 

With macroeconomic headwinds, the negative effect on the general economy indirectly influences individual companies.

Examples include inflation, high interest, foreign exchange rates, and poor economic growth.

With inflation and high-interest rates, the result is decreased economic activities. Meanwhile, deficient growth in the economy is detrimental to all companies.

The increase or decrease of currency value has enormous effects on the world economy. For net importers such as the United States, the United Kingdom, and France, the decline in the foreign exchange rate is damaging to their economies.

On the other hand, microeconomic headwinds that may directly affect individual businesses include decreased revenue, increased competition, a decline in demand, and the surging cost of raw materials.

All these may affect the growth and profitability of the company. 

Similarly, operational issues, changes in management, and legal issues may also compromise the development of a company, impacting its profit and revenue.


What’s the Cause for a Tailwind in Financial Investments?

The same causes for headwinds may serve as tailwinds in financial investments.

During elections, stocks in the market tend to rise as many people view the winning politicians and their plans as gains for the country's economy and development.

Strong projections associated with a country’s rising GDP act as a tailwind for the general economy as more investors from overseas see opportunities and potential trade agreements.

Recessions can also lead to tailwinds for some companies. The drop in fuel prices frees up valuable funds for other areas, such as advertising in the airline industry.

Similarly, the stock market affects the rise and fall of many industries. When conditions are favorable, and investors foresee growth, an increase in stock prices serves as a tailwind for companies.

With individual enterprises, growth in sales and profit is a tailwind for their valuations. More people will want to invest money and buy shares of your company upon perceiving your market value.

In retail, increased consumer spending is considered a tailwind. The rising demand leads to higher profits and revenues for companies. It also has a positive effect on the stock market.

Written by
Jamey Muller
I'm the head-writer @ Knowledge Eager (or, in plain English, I'm the guy writing the majority of the content here). Addicted to the stock market, football, sushi and tacos.
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Jamey Muller
I'm the head-writer @ Knowledge Eager (or, in plain English, I'm the guy writing the majority of the content here). Addicted to the stock market, football, sushi and tacos.