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Corporate BasicsBasicsCorporate StructureCorporate FundamentalsCorporate DebtRisksEconomicsCorporate AccountingDividendsEarnings

What is the relationship between major currencies in general?

There are six major currencies traded and used as benchmarks on Forex markets: United States Dollars, Euros, Yen, British Pounds, Australian Dollars, Canadian Dollars, and Swiss Francs. There are also relationships between these and others, known as currency correlations. Currency exchange rates can be fixed or floating, and this is determined by policy within the country and how they want to value their money. Continue reading...

What is a Rate Swap?

A rate swap is the exchange of cash flows on underlying principals which are not exchanged. It is an over-the-counter contract between two institutions to trade the cash flows on two comparable principal amounts, but not to exchange the actual principal amounts. Institutions might prefer this arrangement because they only have access to floating interest rates or are overweight in them and would prefer to have some fixed rate interest cash flow, or vice versa. These swaps might occur between banks on opposite sides of the world to take advantage of rates elsewhere or to simply diversify their risks. Continue reading...

What is the Hang Seng Index?

The Hang Seng Index (HSI) is comprised of the 50 biggest stocks traded on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. The Hong Kong stock market is much different than that of China, in that foreign investors are allowed access and the index is calculated on a free floating cap-weighted basis. It tracks the 50 biggest companies on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, and is a better barometer for measuring overall performance of companies from the region. Continue reading...

What is a commodity swap?

Like a currency or interest rate swap, a commodity swap is a contractual agreement to trade one cash flow for another. Commodity swaps are facilitated by Swap Dealers (SDs) who pair up various companies, mostly in the oil industry, who are looking to trade a floating (market price) cash flow outlay for a fixed one, or vice-versa. Futures Commission Merchants (FCMs) are the agents licensed by the National Futures Association to solicit and broker commodity swaps through Swap Dealers (SDs). (Requirements — found here) Continue reading...

What is a Home Mortgage?

A home mortgage is a long-term loan for the purchase of a home, secured by the value of the home itself. Banks as well as mortgage companies make mortgage loans to consumers and charge an interest rate for the duration of the loan that may be fixed or variable. Mortgage loans generally last for between 15 to 30 years, and they are constructed so that paying off a home can fit into a person’s budget while a bank or lending institution collects interest on each payment. Continue reading...

What is a currency peg?

The currency pairs you are most familiar with, such as EUR/USD or USD/JPY, are floating currencies, meaning that their value changes freely with market forces. Some countries have chosen to peg their currency to another currency, most commonly the USD. The exchange rate between their currency and the peg currency never changes, unless policy makers tweak things slightly. Currencies can also be pegged to commodities or baskets of other currencies. Pegged currencies are not discussed often in the Forex market because their value is tied directly to the value of another, more liquid floating currency, or to a basket of currencies, or to a commodity. Continue reading...

What is Mutual Fund Classification According to Market Capitalization?

One way of classifying mutual funds is by the market capitalizations of the companies they invest in. Mutual funds can invest in stocks and bonds of foreign corporations, or corporations in the biotechnology industry, or with any other objective they may have. But one way to manage it is by size—to capture market exposure for companies of different sizes. The size of a company is defined by the amount of market capitalization it has, which is the number of shares outstanding multiplied by the share price. Some indexes and funds will adjust market cap rankings to give weight to “free float,” which is the amount of market capitalization that is freely trading, and is not held by other companies, governments, or founding families. Continue reading...

What is a Yield Curve?

A yield curve is an illustration of the current duration-to-yield relationship for bonds of the same credit rating but different durations. As a general rule, the longer the duration of the loan, the more risk you take on (since you don't know what might happen with that corporation in the future), and therefore, you demand a higher reward (i.e., higher coupon). The yield curve for any bond (not just the US Treasury Bonds) changes daily based on many economic and market factors. Continue reading...

What is Weighted Average Market Capitalization?

Indexes track markets in different ways, and Weighted Average Market Capitalization is a method which gives market cap, or the cumulative value of outstanding shares for a company, greater weight. Market Capitalization is the sum total value of all outstanding shares and is one way to judge the size of a company or at least its size in the market. Indexes such as the S&P 500 are Cap-Weighted indexes, which means they give greater emphasis the to the largest companies, and the dramatic price movements of only a few of the largest companies would mean that the index would swing disproportionately for large-cap companies. Continue reading...

What is the Difference Between a Thrift Savings Plan and Other Retirement Plans?

The main difference is that the TSP is only for Federal employees. A Thrift Savings Plan is essentially a 401(k) for employees of the federal government. It functions in the same ways and is subject to the same limitations. The contribution limits and catch-up limits are the same, as well as the employer contribution limit. The plan actually has lower fees than most 401(k)s, so that’s one difference. The investment options are fairly limited, but not much more than regular 401(k)s. There are basically 5 index funds to choose from and then a series of target-date funds that blend the index funds. Continue reading...

Is There Anything Else I Need to Know About Bonds?

There will always be more to learn in the investment world: innovation is always happening and the products will change along with market conditions. Bonds are no exception. The bond market is huge — actually larger than the stock market, if you can believe that — and there are literally hundreds of economic, market, and tax-related factors which influence the decisions of which bonds to buy. You must look at the yield curve, duration, rating of the issuer, your own cash flow needs, expected changes in the interest rate environment, changes in the overall health of the economy, tax implications, account in which you're buying bonds, and so forth. Therefore, structuring fixed income accounts is a task which is perhaps better left to professional advisors. Continue reading...

What is a derivative?

A derivative is a security which monetizes the risk or volatility associated with a reference asset. Derivatives derive their value from speculation surrounding an underlying or reference asset. The reference asset could be another security, an interest rate, or an index, for example, but there are also derivatives based on future weather patterns. Derivatives come in many forms; examples include options, swaps, and futures. Some derivatives trade on exchanges and some are Over-the-Counter (OTC). Derivatives might be used for speculation or hedging. Continue reading...

What are Bond Ratings?

The possibility of a company or municipal government defaulting on their bond obligations, usually by going bankrupt, is a real one. For this reason, all bonds are rated according to the financial stability of the issuer. A look at the history of corporate and municipal debt will illuminate the fact that the possibility of the issuer being unable to pay its obligations to bondholders is a very real one. There is an established system of bond ratings that gives a rough estimate of the bond's reliability. Continue reading...

What is a Run Rate?

Run rate is a term that can be applied to a certain type of accounting and management estimation or to the depletion of equity options. The first kind is when a current metric (such as sales revenue for a quarter) is assumed to extend out to the end of the year or accounting period for estimation or valuation purposes. The second kind uses the average dilution from the past three years, generally, to show the effect that convertible securities are having on the share price of a company. Continue reading...

What is Accrual Rate?

This term might apply to bonds or pensions and other financial instruments which build up interest value which is paid out at a later time. Accrual Rate is the rate at which a nominal interest rate is credited to an account that will be paid out at a later time. A bond sold in the secondary market, for instance, will take the accrual rate into account if the sale takes place in between coupon payments. Continue reading...

What is an Interest Rate?

An interest rate is a simple financial principle that’s been around for centuries, whereby a borrower has to pay for money borrowed. The interest rate is agreed to between the lender and the borrower, and there may be provisions under which the rate could change over the course of  a loan. In simple terms, an interest rate is the cost of money. Continue reading...

What is a currency swap?

In a currency swap, institutions will enter into an arrangement lasting anywhere from 1 to 30 years, in which they loan each other an equal principal amount at the current exchange rate, lending out their currency and taking a loan in a foreign currency, and paying an interest rate in foreign currency to their lending counter-party. Institutions that engage in a currency swap (also called a cross-currency swap) seek to increase their exposure or liquidity in a foreign currency, and in some cases seek to take advantage of favorable interest rates in the arrangement. In fact, a currency swap can be considered a variation on an interest rate swap, except that in this case, a notional principal is exchanged at the onset. Continue reading...

What is the Discount Rate?

The Discount Rate can actually have multiple meanings, but the most prevalent one is in regards to the minimum interest rate the Federal Reserve will charge for lending to commercial banks. The Federal Reserve sets the discount rate in an effort to discourage or encourage commercial banks to borrow, depending on the economic conditions. The discount rate also refers to the rate used to calculate the present value of future cash flows, as part of Discounted Cash Flow (DCF) analysis. Continue reading...

What is the Interbank Rate?

The interbank rate is the average lending rate used between banks of comparable size and creditworthiness when they borrow money from each other. The Federal Funds Rate is the benchmark in America, while LIBOR (the London Interbank Offered Rate) is more prevalent elsewhere. These are indexes which are used to determine rates and terms for other financial instruments and swaps. The Prime Rate, or the rate banks will used for their most credit-worthy customers, is tied to the interbank rate but is slightly higher of course. In America the Federal Funds Rate is so called because the Central bank participates in the lending. This is sometimes called the overnight rate when it refers to money that is lent between banks overnight. Continue reading...

What is a Dividend Rate?

The dividend rate is basically just the value of the annual dividend of a company, stated as the monetary value. Not to be confused with the dividend yield, or the dividend growth rate, both of which are percentages. Dividend yield and dividend rate are slightly different from one another. The dividend yield is the size of a dividend in relation to the share price, and is stated as a percentage. The dividend rate is actually the amount of money paid out per share, per year, stated as a dollar amount. Continue reading...