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What should I compare the performance of my portfolio with?

Benchmark indices are used to gauge the performance of an investment portfolio. In order to evaluate the performance of your portfolio for any given period of time, find the corresponding index for each investment in your portfolio. For example, for US Equities, use the S&P 500 For your Small Cap portion, use the Russell 2000 Index, etc. You can also compute weighted index blends that correspond to your index allocation (e.g., 40% MSCI / 60% S&P). If your manager or the portion of your portfolio significantly (by more than a couple percent) underperforms the corresponding index, be sure to carefully monitor this manager or portion of your portfolio. Continue reading...

What is alpha in investing?

Alpha is a risk ratio which measures gains or losses relative to a benchmark, indicating whether an investor is being compensated with a return greater than the volatility risk being taken. Alpha’s counterpart, the Beta figure, measures how closely an investment follows movements in the market as a whole or, when examining mutual funds, how similarly the funds move to their relevant indexes. Alpha is expressed as integers, which can be translated into percentage points above or below a benchmark for a time period. Investors are interested in higher Alpha figures: the larger the positive Alpha, the more the fund in question has outperformed its benchmark. An Alpha of 2 indicates a performance 2% greater than its benchmark; inversely, a -2 Alpha would denote 2% underperformance. Continue reading...

What is the LIBOR?

The LIBOR is the benchmark interest rate that the world’s leading banks pay each other for short-term loans (interbank rate). It stands for ‘London Interbank Offered Rate’ and essentially serves as the benchmark that global banks use to determine the interest cost of short-term loans. The rate then becomes useful in determining - and as a reference point - for government bonds, mortgages, student loans, credit cards, and derivatives. Continue reading...

What is the Russell 1000?

The Russell 1000 is considered the optimal benchmark for large cap U.S. stocks. The Russell 1000 comprises over 90% of the total market capitalization of U.S. stocks, and is the go-to benchmark for large cap U.S. stocks. Like the S&P 500, the Russell 1000 is cap-weighted and will give investors a good idea of how the largest U.S. companies are performing. What is the Russell 2000 Index? What Should I Compare the Performance of My Portfolio With? Continue reading...

What is R-Squared?

R-squared is a statistical tool called a correlation coefficient. It is a percentage measurement that represents how closely correlated a security’s movement is with the movements of a benchmark index. Values range between 0 and 1 and are often expressed as percentages between 0% and 100%. A higher R-squared (between 85% and 100%) tells investors that a security moves more or less in correlation with the benchmark index. A lower R-squared (70% or less) means that the security in question moves independently from the index. Continue reading...

What is Mutual Fund Classification According to the Price to Earnings Ratio?

Managing a fund based on P/E Ratio generally tends to put valuation ahead of other criteria when selecting stocks. The main categories which can be derived from P/E Ratios are Growth and Value funds. Fund managers may intentionally invest in companies with a higher P/E than the market benchmark, because these tend to be considered Growth stocks. These companies are experiencing growth and are projected to continue to do so, which is seen in the high price of the stocks. Continue reading...

What is the “Riskless” (or Risk-Free) Rate of Return?

For comparisons of the risk/return ratio of an investment, one must start with a benchmark of a risk-free rate of return in the current market. Since U.S. Treasury bills are backed by the full faith, credit, and taxing power of the U.S. Government, they are considered “riskless,” or as close to riskless as we can get. The current yield on a 10-year Treasury note is generally considered the risk-free rate of return. Continue reading...

What is active management?

Active management is the practice of attempting to outperform the market with selection and timing. Active management is a thoughtful and time-consuming approach to investing and is the opposite of Passive management. Active managers seek to outperform the benchmarks for their portfolio by researching and selecting stocks and other assets based on strategies and analysis methods thought to be superior. Continue reading...

What is the Russell 2000 Index?

The Russell 2000 index is comprised of the 2,000 smallest companies in the U.S. If you’re looking for a small cap domestic benchmark, this is a good one. Companies included in this index are reevaluated annually to make sure they can still be considered small cap companies. Since the Russell 1000 index represents 90% of the market, the Russell 2000 index represents about 10% of the market (if you are wondering whether or not there is a Russell 3000 index, the answer is yes — it is a combination of the Russell 1000 and Russell 2000 indices). Continue reading...

What is a currency basket?

Currency baskets are composed of weighted amounts of certain currencies. The most common use of a currency basket is as a benchmark for certain economic analysis, but it can also be used as a unit of account where an international organization has constituents that use various currencies. A basket of currencies is a weighted index of various currencies which serves a specific purpose as a benchmark or as a unit of account. Continue reading...

What is the MSCI World?

The MSCI World is perhaps the most well regarded index for global stocks. The MSCI World Index is a global cap-weighted index that serves as a good barometer for stock and economic performance of the world as a whole. If you are a global investor, the MSCI World makes for a very useful benchmark for performance. The index is maintained by Morgan Stanley, and has over 1,600 stocks listed in it from all developed markets in the world. It does not include emerging markets or China. 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 active trading?

Active trading is the pursuit of returns in excess of market benchmarks. Investors are advised to have a diverse portfolio, to hedge against the risk of seeing future financial plans devastated due to significant losses in one holding. When attempting to diversify, investors will hear from the increasingly popular camp which believes that the best strategy is to use only passive index funds, which follow indexes using computer algorithms and have low expense ratios. Continue reading...

How Do I Find the Best Mutual Fund?

It requires a great deal of due diligence, but investors should understand that past performance is not indicative of future performance. Focus on experience. In the stock market, as with most things in life, hindsight is 20/20. There are countless lists on the internet with titles like “The Best Mutual Fund Families” and “50 Winning Mutual Funds.” It is important to understand that the names on those lists are a function of hindsight and not foresight. 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 is EBITDA?

EBITDA stands for Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation and Amortization, and is used as a ballpark figure for where the company’s earnings are without these expenses. It gives a picture of the total operating revenue of a company with the expenses that are related to financing decision and the tax environment left out. Accountants can calculate EBITDA by taking net income (earnings, or operational earnings) and adding interest payments, tax obligation, depreciation of hard assets, and amortization of intangibles back into it. Continue reading...

What are Pivot Points?

Pivot points are quick-reference tools used in intra-day trading that give the trader benchmarks and perspective while short-term price movements happen. Pivot points are set by taking the high, low, and close price levels of a stock market index or individual security for the previous day or week and basing support and resistance levels from there by multiplying those numbers by simple factors. These multiple might be very simple, such as 2x or 3x, or using Fibonacci numbers, which is still a simple calculation if you have the Fibonacci numbers. These are meant to be very quickly generated on a piece of scratch paper, and because of their simplicity, they were a favorite among floor traders. Continue reading...

What is the Federal Open Market Committee?

The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) is the monetary policy-making body of the Federal Reserve System. The FOMC makes the decision on “raising” or “lowering” interest rates, which refers to moves in the federal funds rate. The FOMC consists of 12 members, which is comprised of the seven members of the Board of Governors and 5 of the 12 Reserve Bank presidents. The president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York always has a seat on the FOMC, while the other presidents rotate for one year terms. This policy-making body meets eight times a year to decide monetary policy, which consists of setting the benchmark interest rate and make decisions regarding the supply of money. All dependent on economic conditions. Continue reading...

What is SIBOR?

SIBOR is the primary interbank loan rate quoted in the Asian markets. SIBOR stands for the Singapore Interbank Offered Rate, and is a regional equivalent of the LIBOR, or London Interbank Offered Rate. It serves as a reference rate and is a composite of the reported rates offered by member banks of the Association of Banks in Singapore (ABS) for the lending of unsecured funds over several time frames. Continue reading...

What is the Lehman Aggregate Bond Index?

The Lehman Aggregate Bond Index is a broad bond index, widely considered the best total bond market index to track performance across various types of bonds. The index includes government bonds, mortgage backed securities, corporate bonds, and asset backed securities with maturities greater than a year. It is used by many money managers as a measuring stick for tracking the relative performance of a managed bond portfolio. Continue reading...

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