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An economic cycle is a period during which a country's economy moves from strength to weakness and back to strength.
This pattern repeats itself regularly, though not on a fixed schedule. The length of the cycle isn't predictable either and may be measured in months or in years.
The cycle is driven by many forces -- including inflation, the money supply, domestic and international politics, and natural events.
In developed countries, the central bank uses its power to influence interest rates and the money supply to prevent dramatic peaks and deep troughs, smoothing the cycle's highs and lows.
This up and down pattern influences all aspects of economic life, including the financial markets. Certain investments or categories of investment that thrive in one phase of the cycle may lose value in another. As a result, in evaluating an investment, you may want to look at how it has fared through a full economic cycle.