When I joined the industry, fresh analysts like myself would flit through the morning newspaper like a drowning man who clutches one spar after another for support. Our attempts to stay abreast were as haphazard as that man’s attempts to stay afloat. On page 1, we would read an article concerning Greece’s tussle with Germany but forget it by the time we reached page 8.
It took me some time (two years) to develop a coherent macro framework on which every news article now fits to compound my existing knowledge. It took me an immense amount of conscious effort (reading) to become familiar with historical context of individual economies but the rewards have been so fruitful that I would encourage every young analyst/associate (or potential analyst/associate) to do the same. This is because unless you know the historical context, the time you spend reading news/raw information will be much less productive and when the need for that information arises, you will most likely find your memory wanting.
A very useful way to start is by examining global balance of payments. The beauty of analysing balance of payments is that the world is a closed system so actions in one part of the world (for instance QE in the US) will necessarily create an equal and opposite impact on other parts (Japan or Eurozone or China). Balance of Payments data is available on the IMF website for free and you will easily find free articles on the Internet analysing historical trends in major economies. A very good example at the moment is the Eurozone’s surplus (driven by Germany’s surplus and deficit reduction through unemployment in peripheral economies, especially Greece), which combines with China’s surplus and efforts by the US to reduce its deficit to create a potent threat of rising global unemployment and recession – i.e. the world is experiencing a savings glut.