If you can correctly predict a market trend indicating something is about to increase in price, you can buy them up and make a significant profit when you resell them later. Anything which disturbs a market such as a game balance change or new expansion content can cause a shift in prices. This makes it possible to predict some market trends even before they start. If you understand exactly how the market for a particular item functions, you can analyse the effect that upcoming patch or expansion changes will have on it. Speculation is not without its risks, though. After making a killing on decryptors when the Invention system came in, I myself funneled over a billion ISK into archeology decryptors I assumed would be used in Tech 3 production. When Tech 3 came out, it didn't use the things at all, leaving me with a lot of hard-to-sell stock.
A good example of market speculation is the recent issue of moon minerals and the Dominion expansion. It was predicted that the expansion would contain a revamp of the moon mineral distribution system. For those who felt the risk was worth the potential rewards, it was a no-brainer to buy up rare moon minerals now and wait for the expansion. The disruption in supply should cause a temporary vacuum in the market lasting up to several weeks, during which time prices would rise. Others took a look ahead at the buffs the "Alchemy" system was getting and came to further conclusions. Since the Alchemy system effectively allows certain moon minerals to be used in place of others, it was further predicted that Dysprosium prices would actually fall as demand decreased. Neodymium therefore became one of the materials of choice and many players bought it up in droves. There's still a huge risk here as devblogs on the expansion have yet to produce any details on what, if anything, is actually happening to moon minerals in Dominion.
Price manipulation is a dangerous business. You can make billions from a successful manipulation or lose your entire fortune as it fails. The basic idea is actually pretty simple - buy up all of an item below a certain price and you've temporarily increased the price. Then sell your stock at this increased price and cash out before market prices go back to normal. In practice, if you do this in Jita you're fighting almost the combined normalising force of the entire EVE economy. Without a lot of ISK to pour into it, you could be digging yourself into an ever-deepening hole and end up broke half way through a failed manipulation. No matter what you're selling, people will keep adding new stock to the market and they'll continually undercut you. You'll need to keep the manipulation up and buy out anyone cheaper on the market.
If you're prepared to take on the risk and challenge of market manipulation, start small and do some experiments first. The best products to do it on are those that are in high demand but if the supply is too great you risk people listing vast stocks on the market and depleting your ISK reserves. Similarly, low demand items are unlikely to sell quickly enough to shift your stock before the prices crash. There are a few rather evil tips for avoiding this that I'll discuss in next week's column. Something important to be aware of is that people with large stockpiles of goods can repeatedly list them in small amounts as a deliberate ploy to get you to buy them out.
The key to trading and marketeering in EVE is the ability to recognise trends and patterns as they emerge or even before they begin to. Margin trading on solid products and speculation on patch days are both very good moneymakers that you needn't even leave the station to pursue. Market manipulation is a lot riskier and is typically a tool for the financial elite in EVE but it can give a huge amount of ISK if successful. In next week's final part of this concise guide to art of trading in EVE Online, I dole out some of my personal experiences as I discuss the top tips and tricks I've learned over the years. What is a cyclic product and how can you make money from it? How can you cash out from a market manipulation? In next week's column, I'll go into these and other tips that have given me an edge in the market over the years.
Brendan "Nyphur" Drain is an early veteran of EVE Online and writer of the weekly EVE Evolved column here at massively.com. The column covers anything and everything relating to EVE Online, from in-depth guides to speculative opinion pieces. If you want to message him, send him an e-mail at brendan.drain AT weblogsinc DOT com.