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What is the Home Affordability and Stability Plan (HASP)?

HASP came into being in 2009 in response to the housing market crash that made life very difficult for many Americans. Also known as the Making Home Affordable Plan. It called for the creation of various programs and support for lending institutions, consumers, and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The Homeowner Affordability and Stability Program (HASP) has three main parts. Part one is to aid responsible homeowners who are suffering from falling home prices and have become underwater on their mortgages. Continue reading...

What is foreign exchange intervention?

If a central bank takes actions that intentionally and artificially affect the value of a currency, particularly its own, it is engaging in what is known as a Foreign Exchange Intervention, or an interventionist policy. Central banks occasionally use interventions in foreign exchange markets to achieve a desirable end. The banks will intentionally make trades and hold certain amounts of currencies or derivatives with the sole purpose of manipulating the value of their domestic currency. The reasons for that manipulation might be to slow down inflation or to make their county’s exports look more attractive by pushing the value of their currency lower. Continue reading...

What is Accommodative Monetary Policy?

Accommodative monetary policy is when a central bank makes it easier for banks and consumers to borrow money by lowering the interbank exchange rate. A central bank, such as the Federal Reserve Bank in the United States, can influence the economy by loosening or tightening the money supply. Loosening the money supply is known as accommodative policy, because it give the businesses and individuals in the country access to a higher degree of liquidity. 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...

Is there such a thing as a “presidential election cycle” impact on stocks?

Some analysts have popularized the notion that the 4-year presidential election cycle holds secrets to bear and bull markets. Found in publications such as the Stock Traders Almanac, The Presidential Election Cycle is the theory that different phases of the presidential term are correlated to broad market conditions. As will many such theories, it may not hold up under a lot of scrutiny, but there are some correlations to be found. Continue reading...

How is a 457 Plan Different From a 401(k)?

A 457 is only slightly different than a 401(k), but the differences can be important. Although the two plans are similar in practice, there are some very important differences. Former employees can withdraw from their accounts penalty-free after they have separated from service, even if they are under 59 ½. 457 plans must also be offered to independent contractors, which 401(k)s do not. 457 plans are offered to state and local public workers and employees of certain nonprofits.Top-hat 457 plans can also be offered to highly compensated employees without being offered to other employees, at both non-profit and for-profit businesses. 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 Accrued Interest?

Accrued Interest applies to a bond or loan, accounting for the interest that is calculated per diem for the time between payments. Accrued Interest is the amount of interest that has "built up" between the last payment and the present, with regards to bonds and loans. If a bond is sold from one person to another, and the corporation or municipality that issued the bond pays out an interest payment at regular intervals, the sale price will have to factor-in the "accrued interest" since the last distribution, and the buyer will have to pay the seller for the accrued interest due while the latter held the bond. Continue reading...

What is Minority Interest?

Minority interest is a portion of a company’s stock that is not owned by the parent company, and refers to a type of ownership that generally cannot exert influence over a company’s business decisions. If an outside investor or another company has a less than 50% stake in a company via shares, then they are said to have a minority interest. From an accounting standpoint, only the dividends of a minority interest are counted on a company’s books. If they exert influence over the decision-making, then a percentage of the income may also need to be included. Continue reading...

What is a Debenture?

A debenture is a non-secured loan, meaning that it is not backed by collateral or other assets. In other words, it is a loan backed by general credit. Corporations and governments issue debentures regularly, and an example of a government debenture would be a U.S. Treasury. Continue reading...

What is short interest?

Short interest is a term used to describe how many short positions are open for a given security or market at a given time. It is often expressed as a percentage of the total securities outstanding and is used for the short interest ratio. This serves as a gauge of bearish market sentiment, since short-sellers are expecting price action to trend downward. The short interest ratio (SIR) provides a context for the quantity of short interest outstanding by stating this amount in relation to the average daily trading volume. Continue reading...

What does 'short covering' mean?

When a security is sold “short,” it means that the investor did not own the security, to begin with, and the broker can require that the investor return the shares in what’s known as ‘short covering.’ Covering a short position means to acquire the securities which were sold short, and returning them to the custodian/broker that facilitated the short sale. Imagine a shopkeeper who allows a customer to lock-in a certain price for a widget, even though the shopkeeper does not have the widget in inventory. Continue reading...

What are the Best Internet Sources for Financial Information?

The internet is overflowing with the advice, analysis, and chest-pounding of millions of self-purported gurus and market commentary services. There are plenty of well-informed and trustworthy sources out there, too. There are literally millions of websites providing you with various kinds of financial information, advice, recommendations, opinions, rumors, get-rich-quick schemes, and “facts.” There is a short list of companies that are well-established with a reputation worthy of trust: Morningstar, Moody’s, Fidelity, Schwab, Goldman Sachs, etc. Continue reading...

What is a Treasury Note?

Treasury notes are government-issued coupon bonds with maturities between 1 and 10 years. A large secondary market exists for Treasury Notes, and they can be acquired at issue in a competitive bid or a noncompetitive bid auction. They are extremely popular for their marketability and six-month interest payment schedule. They do have interest rate risk, since treasuries issued with higher interest rates will make the ones already issued with lower rates less valuable. Continue reading...

What does open interest mean?

Open interest is a measurement of the outstanding open positions in a derivative security. Strong open interest means the derivative will have high liquidity. Open Interest is not the same thing as Trading Volume, but it does give an indication of liquidity and activity in a derivative. Open Interest is the number of open positions for a derivative, like an option. The Options Clearing Corporation tallies up the ‘open interest’ numbers, but they are not posted until the morning following the count. Open Interest isn't necessarily indicative of a bullish or bearish forecast for the underlying security, but it does generally mean that the option will have high liquidity and that a seller will be able to find a buyer. Continue reading...

What is the Interest Coverage Ratio?

Also known as the debt service ratio, The interest coverage ratio is a measure of how many times a company can pay the interest owed on its debt with EBIT. To calculate it, you simply divide EBIT (earnings before interest and taxes) by interest expense. A company with a low interest coverage ratio means it has fewer earnings available to make interest payments, which can imply solvency issues and could mean a company would be at risk if interest rates go up. Continue reading...

What factors affect currency exchange rates?

Currency exchange rates will fluctuate with various macroeconomic factors such as inflation, interest rates, trade balance, and so on, as well as political climate. Currency exchange rates are influenced by a number of factors, with some experts listing 5, some experts listing as many as 10. The main variables that will affect exchange rates are inflation rates, interest rates, the trade balance / current account, speculation in Forex markets, and government policies and interventions. Continue reading...

What is Mortgage Interest Deduction?

Mortgage Interest Deductions are allowable income tax deductions that equal the amount of mortgage payments in a year that are attributable to interest rather than principal repayments. Mortgage insurance premiums may also be deductible. Interest deductions are subject to the Pease phaseout, while mortgage insurance premium deductions are not allowed over certain income levels. Interest payments on mortgages are generally deductible from income taxes. Continue reading...

What is Effective Annual Interest Rate?

Also known as the annual equivalent rate (AER), the effective annual interest rate is the actual annual interest rate on a bond or loan when it compounds more than once a year. The effects of compounding will make the AER higher than the annual interest rate if the security compounds greater than annually. Continue reading...

What is Times Interest Earned (TIE)?

Times Interest Earned (TIE) is also known as the interest coverage ratio, is a cash-flow analysis that compares the pre-tax earnings of a company to the total amount of interest payable on their debt obligations. A healthy ratio indicates that a company will probably not default on loan repayments. To compute this ratio, divide a company’s annual income before taxes by their annual interest payments on debt obligations. This ratio is not concerned with the actual principal due on loans since the principal amount is already pegged to some of the assets on the books of the company, and other fundamental equations will already factor that in. Continue reading...

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