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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 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 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...

What are Double and Triple ETFs?

Double and triple ETFs are also known as leveraged ETFs, and their goal is to magnify the performance of the index they follow. Using futures contracts and other derivative instruments, 2x or 3x ETFs attempt to magnify the performance of an index, with the goal of achieving the result daily. Because they also compound daily, they are not usually held for more than a few days. These are also called leveraged ETFs because they use margin, futures contracts, and other derivative instruments to give an investor this magnified exposure. They give you two or three times (respectively) the profits but also two or three times the losses, so one must be very cautious when dealing with them. Continue reading...

What is a Dividend ETF?

Dividend ETFs invest primarily in preferred stock and stocks that pay regular dividends. Strategically, they tend to be either Dividend Appreciation or High Yield. Dividend ETFs are equity dividend funds that seek income from preferred stocks, common stocks. As of 2016 there are over 130 Dividend ETFs, and that’s up from about 29 in 2011 and 45 in 2012. This has become a popular strategy, obviously, and they all seek to distinguish themselves from the pack. Continue reading...

What Kinds of ETFs Exist?

There are many ETFs on the market and more popping up all the time. Currently, there are over 900 ETFs available on the market, covering basically every market sector, industry, commodity, asset class, country, style of investing on the stock market. The amount of money invested in ETFs has increased exponentially over the last decade and is likely to continue in that direction. Many more ETFs are introduced to the market every year, many with different and creative strategies that have never been available in a single investment product before. These might use Forex, rate swaps, CMOs, futures, options, short-selling, and other advanced or institutional trading strategies, to create a new kind of position in a sector, industry, or geography to which the investor wants to gain exposure. Continue reading...

Should I Use Double or Triple ETFs?

Double or triple ETFs can be very volatile investments, so an investor should be aware of the risks involved. By using future contracts to gain maximum leverage, ETFs known as Double or Triple ETFs offer magnified exposure to specific indices. Double and triple ETFs provide double or triple returns, but also incur double or triple losses. For this reason, double and triple ETFs are an extremely risky investment, Day traders and institutional investors make use of these products as short-term hedging strategies or speculative bets. Continue reading...

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?

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 Sector ETFs?

Sector ETFs hold a portfolio of stocks and other securities that represent a specific sector of the market. Sector ETFS are managed portfolios of securities which are representative of a specific industry or market sector. They might passively track a sector index or be actively seeking alpha over the sector benchmark. The word “sector” is a broad term for a grouping of companies in the market, but the word “industry” is sometimes used interchangeably. There are 10 sectors in the S&P 500: healthcare, financials, energy, consumer staples, consumer discretionary, utilities, materials, industrials, information technology, and telecommunications (telecom) services. Continue reading...

What are Actively-Managed ETFs?

At their conception, ETFs only tracked indexes, but today there is also demand for actively-managed ETFs. ETFs tend to look a lot like passive index mutual funds, except that they can trade intra-day like stocks, while mutual funds only settle within 24 hours. In the last decade or so, there has been an increasing market for actively-managed ETFs as well. It is somewhat ironic that the popularity of actively-managed mutual funds has decreased while an abundance of actively-managed ETFs has appeared. The popularity of ETFs has grown enough for fund managers to attempt more and more things. Continue reading...

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 an ETF? Definition

ETFs are very popular and useful investment vehicles that offer affordable diversification and professional portfolio management. An ETF is a basket of securities that is designed to ‘mimic’ the performance of an index, sector, or category of securities. For example, the ETF with ticker SPY is designed to track the performance of the S&P 500, and the company that creates the ETF (in this case Barclays iShares) builds the ETF simply by purchasing the 500 stocks in the S&P 500. Investors can purchase shares of the ETF as a means of gaining instant access to all 500 stocks in the S&P 500, thus tracking its performance. Continue reading...

How do I Buy an ETF?

ETFs are widely available through brokers and online trading services. ETFs can be purchased in the same way that you might purchase stocks. ETFs are priced continuously during the day, and reflect the underlying basket of stocks comprising this ETF. The fees and commissions investors pay for purchasing ETFs are exactly the same as those for stocks. The market for ETFs is highly liquid, with substantial trading volume every day. As such, ETFs are readily available and easy to acquire, but it is important to remember that they are not quite as simple as individual stocks. Continue reading...

How do I Invest in commodities?

Commodities can be acquired through brokerage services that can access the commodities markets, or you can buy the stocks of companies that bring commodities to market. Investors can also gain exposure to commodities through mutual funds and ETFs that focus on them. There are a few ways to invest in commodities. One simple way is to purchase the stock of companies that produce commodities. You can also invest through futures contracts, which are agreements to buy a certain amount of a commodity at a certain price at some point in the future; this is the primary way that commodities are traded. They can also trade at spot, which means at the current price, or through the use of other derivative instruments, such as options on futures contracts. 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 the S&P 500?

The S&P 500 (also known as the Standard & Poor's 500) is an index of the 500 largest and most important U.S. companies (selected by a special committee). The S&P 500 is a cap-weighted index, meaning the respective weights of companies in the index depends on market capitalization. For example, since Apple Inc. and Google are the biggest companies in the U.S., they affect movements in the S&P 500 more than a smaller company, like Visa. Continue reading...

What is the VIX?

VIX is the ticker of the volatility index of the S&P 500. The Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE) Volatility Index projects the volatility of the S&P 500 going forward by creating a composite of the volatility priced-in (implied) on various S&P 500 options. Since it is created using the prices of options, it serves as a gauge of market sentiment, and is often called the "fear gauge" since it will spike when the market plunges. Continue reading...

What are the Expenses Associated with the Purchase of ETFs?

There may be fees and commissions involved in the purchase of ETFs, and ongoing expenses that reduce earnings over time. Purchasing an ETF will probably involve paying some fees or commissions to the service or broker through which you acquired the shares, but these days those commissions are fairly minimal. These fees will be the same or less than you might pay for using their services to acquire positions in other securities. ETFs are a relatively cheap way to gain an exposure to a particular sector of the market or to take a position that might otherwise be difficult and expensive to research, calculate, and engineer. Continue reading...

ETFs vs Mutual Funds -- What's the Difference?

The better choice might be different for each investor. There is no clear-cut answer to this question, since it will depend on an investor’s unique situation and what’s being offered. If you intend to trade actively, ETFs might be a better choice since they have prices that update minute-to-minute during the day and their trades settle more quickly. If you are just buying and holding an index (see ‘index investing’), an ETF will give you the cost effective means for doing so. You may be able to buy into an ETF with lower initial requirements than a mutual fund, since you can buy one share instead of possibly having to meet a $1,000 minimum initial investment requirement for a mutual fund. Continue reading...

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