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What is the House Price Index (HPI)?

The House Price Index (HPI) tracks average prices of homes using data from sales and refinancing, tracking the data for the same residential properties over many years. The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) publishes it quarterly and relies on data from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The HPI is an important index for the real estate and mortgage industry, as well as the economy as a whole. It uses information from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac about home sale prices and the refinancing value of homes, tracking the sales and refinancing prices of homes in the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac databases, all the way back to 1978. They do this using a weighted repeat-sales method. It is published quarterly by the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA). Continue reading...

What is a market index?

What is a market index?

Market indexes attempt to give an overall picture of the behavior of the market by tracking the performance of a representative sample of stocks. Different indexes have different focuses. The Russell 3000 samples more of the smaller companies than the S&P 500. Index mutual funds and ETFs track specific indexes but, as you’ll notice in their disclosures, it is impossible to invest directly in an index; they only follow the index by investing in as many of the companies as possible and minimizing lag as much as they can. Indexes give numerical values for the progressive fluctuations in the price action for specific sets of stocks. Continue reading...

What is the MSCI ACWI Index?

What is the MSCI ACWI Index?

The MSCI ACWI is the “All Country World Index” - providing the broadest measure for global stocks. The MSCI ACWI tracks performance of stocks from all over the world - literally. It includes all markets and gives the broadest picture for how world stocks are performing. Developed markets account for some 75% of total global output, so the MSCI ACWI includes many countries that are not necessarily palatable contributors to world growth. Continue reading...

What are index futures?

What are index futures?

Index futures are futures contracts written on an index in which a large position can be held with a relatively small margin requirement. Index futures can be used for hedging or speculation. A "good faith" initial margin deposit (also called a performance bond) of a fraction of the contract size is all that is required to hold a substantial position, with a notional value worth significantly more than the amount invested. Continue reading...

What is index investing?

What is index investing?

The main idea behind index investing is that markets are efficient, and, especially with the low fees of indexed funds, it can be a winning strategy. Index investing is a simple strategy of choosing the indices which reflect your investment beliefs and offer diversification, buying mutual funds or ETFs that track these indices, and holding them for a long period of time. The last 10 years have seen the propagation of index funds for any specific market, industry, country, commodity, etc. Continue reading...

How volatile are commodities?

How volatile are commodities?

Commodities are more volatile than most assets. The supply-demand dynamics of commodities are continuously changing, and sometimes very rapidly. Different commodities will have different levels of volatility, of course. Some commodities are extremely volatile. For example, natural gas has had a volatility of almost 45% in some periods, and gold has experienced movements of 20-30% per year lately. Crude oil prices fell some 50% in 2015, as a global supply glut was met with weakening demand, particularly from China. Gold is actually on the less-volatile side of the spectrum for commodities. Silver, Nickel, and crude oil tend to be on the upper end of the spectrum along with exotic metals such as platinum and palladium. Continue reading...

What is an Active Index Fund?

Most index funds are known for using a completely passive strategy to track an index, but some take a more active approach. Some mutual funds track an index by passively using algorithms to buy the shares necessary to build a portfolio which closely replicates an index. Such a fund will have low turnover, will only rebalance slightly based on the market cap or other criteria set forth in the prospectus, and will basically ride out all of the ups and downs of the index in a blind faith for the efficient market hypothesis. Continue reading...

What is an A-B Trust?

What is an A-B Trust?

An A-B Trust is a plan which actually creates two trusts at the death of the first spouse, and is a strategy intended to avoid as much estate tax risk as possible. Each spouse has an estate tax exclusion amount of $5.45 Million, and laws have made unused exclusion amounts fully portable to the surviving spouse, but for our purposes here, most of the exemption will be used up. So a Bypass Trust will be created which uses some amount of the exclusion, and will take that money out of the estate of the surviving spouse. The spouse can still get some income from this trust and have some discretion and control of the principal amount, but cannot use the principal for themselves. Continue reading...

What is market efficiency?

What is market efficiency?

Market efficiency describes the degree to which relevant information is integrated into the price of a security. With the prevalence of information technology today, markets are considered highly efficient; most investors have access to the same information with prices and industry news, updated instantaneously. The Efficient Market Hypothesis stems from this idea. Efficient markets are said to have all relevant information priced-in to the securities almost immediately. High trading volume also makes a market more efficient, as there is a high degree of liquidity for buyers and sellers, and the spread between bid and ask prices narrows. Continue reading...

What is a price-weighted index?

What is a price-weighted index?

When creating an index, it must be decided what criteria will affect the value of the index, and in the case of a price-weighted index, the only consideration is the price of shares. A price-weighted index is created by adding up the individual price per share of the companies included in the index and dividing by the number of companies. Essentially what you've done is arrived at the average price per share of the companies included in the index. Continue reading...

What is Ease of Movement?

What is Ease of Movement?

The Ease of Movement (EMV) indicator measures the degree to which prices can be moved by a lower volume of trading. It was developed by Richard Arms, inventor of the Arms Index, which also attempts to quantify the relationship between price movements and volume. High positive values indicate a present tendency for prices to increase on low volume, and larger negative values indicate that prices are slipping lower but with relatively low trade volume. Continue reading...

What are SPDRs?

What are SPDRs?

SPDRs (Spiders) are index ETF shares that track the S&P 500, or could refer to other similar ETFs tracking other indices. The SPDR is the longest standing ETF (exchange traded fund), and has existed since 1993. Unlike index mutual funds that track the S&P, ETFs can trade intraday, can be sold short, and bought on margin. There are other SPDR ETFs that are spin-offs, and using “SPDRs” in the plural might refer to these as well. SPDRs are managed by State Street Global Advisors, and the S&P 500 SPDR is listed on the NYSE under the ticker symbol SPY. Continue reading...

What is a commodity index?

What is a commodity index?

Commodity indexes are also called commodity price indexes, and they are informational services which reflect the price action in a designated commodity or basket of commodities. Indexes are often tracked by mutual funds or ETFs, and these can be confused with the actual index. Indexes are computed and published by market research firms. They can serve as benchmarks against which the performance of a specific asset or an investment portfolio can be compared, or they can serve as the model that index funds seek to emulate. Continue reading...

What is the Wilshire 5000 Index?

What is the Wilshire 5000 Index?

The Wilshire 5000 is about as broad as an index gets. There are over 9,000 companies traded on all of the U.S. equity markets, and the Wilshire 5000 tries to capture a broad sense for how they are performing. Though the index says 5000, there are actually just under 7,000 listed stocks in the index. It is a cap-weighted index meaning bigger stocks have more influence, and vice versa. It can be considered the broadest index of all U.S. equity markets. Continue reading...

How to use the Accumulative Swing Index in trading?

How to use the Accumulative Swing Index in trading?

The Accumulative Swing Index (ASI) is a trendline representing the running total of an oscillator called the Swing Index, first described by Webb Wilder in his book, “New Concepts in Technical Trading Systems.” The Swing Index itself compares the price data from the current period and the preceding period to quantify the positive or negative “swing,” which can be understood as a measure of directional velocity in a price. Continue reading...

How to use the Arms Index (TRIN) in trading

How to use the Arms Index (TRIN) in trading

Richard Arms invented the analysis tool that bears his name in 1967. The Arms Index, a technical analysis indicator, is also called the TRIN (short for “Trading Index”) because it seeks to indicate overbought or oversold conditions by serving as an index of trading activity relative to price. The Arms index is calculated using readily available data from major indexes such as the S&P 500 or NASDAQ. The ratio of the number of advancing stocks (stocks whose prices are increasing) to the number of declining stocks (stocks whose prices are decreasing) is computed to give us the A/D Ratio, a market breadth indicator that is one way of viewing the daily breadth of a security. The Advance/Decline Ratio uses the same numbers as the Advance/Decline Line but presents them as a ratio instead. The AD Ratio is sometimes more useful than an AD Line, including in instances where comparing AD for different indexes which have different metrics; the ratio is the standardization with which comparisons can be made. Continue reading...

What are currency warrants?

What are currency warrants?

Currency warrants are relatively new to the international Forex market. They function like puts or calls, depending on whether it is a purchase warrant or a warrant to sell, but they have longer durations, usually between one and five years until they expire. They can be purchased to take a position on a currency index or on a currency pair. Warrants were originally issued by corporations, giving investors the ability to redeem the warrant like a call option to purchase a stock at a strike price. Continue reading...

What is MSCI?

MSCI Inc. is a company that is best known for its global indices. MSCI also provides research and pricing capabilities to institutional investors. MSCI was formerly a branch of Morgan Stanley, but grew to be so big that they spun off and formed the independent company, MSCI Inc. Perhaps its best known and used index is the MSCI EAFE, which tracks broad performance of Europe, Asia, and the Far East. Continue reading...

What is the Positive Volume Index?

What is the Positive Volume Index?

The Positive Volume Index (PVI) is a technical indicator that tracks increases in trade volume for an index or security, as well as the changes in price on those days. Paul Dysart developed the original version of this indicator for market indexes using advance-decline numbers instead of prices. The Positive Volume Index was then redesigned by Norman Fosback for individual securities – the version commonly used today. Continue reading...

What is the Negative Volume Index?

What is the Negative Volume Index?

The Negative Volume Index (NVI) is a technical indicator that tracks decreases in trade volume for an index or security, as well as price changes on those days. Paul Dysart developed the original version of this indicator for market indexes, and it garnered renewed attention when it was reworked in the 1970s via Norman Fosback in his book Stock Market Logic. The price changes in a security or the percentage change in an index are only added to or subtracted from the Negative Volume Index on days when the trading volume is lower than the day before. By watching market movement on days with lower trading volume, investors can identify where institutions and fund managers are moving their money. If trading volume is down and the market continues to do well, it means that there is a strong bullish primary trend, and that trading volume is not artificially pushing prices around. Continue reading...