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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 Risk?

Risk can be defined as exposure to the possibility of loss of an asset. Risk might be used to denote the cause of the potential loss, or the probability of the loss. In finance, it is common to hear about the correlation between risk and return; more risk may yield a higher return, but it also has the potential for more loss. The situation requires that an investor willing to take such a risk must provide the capital to fund the investment which may grow or may fail. Continue reading...

What are Profitability Ratios?

Profitability ratios are useful analytical tools to evaluate a company’s ability to generate profits relative to all costs and expenses. A company that has high profitability ratios relative to competitors/peers, or a company that has demonstrated to improve their profitability ratios over time, is generally viewed as a healthy and attractive company from an ownership perspective. Some examples of profitability ratios are profit margin, return on assets, and return on equity. Continue reading...

What is the Current Ratio/Liquidity Ratio?

The current ratio is a measure of a company’s immediate liquidity, calculated by dividing current assets by current liabilities. The value of this ratio lies in determining whether a company's short-term assets (cash, cash equivalents, marketable securities, receivables and inventory) are sufficient enough to pay-off its short-term liabilities (notes payable, current portion of term debt, payables, accrued expenses and taxes). Generally speaking, the higher the current ratio, the better. Continue reading...

What is the Capitalization Ratio?

The capitalization ratio measures a company’s leverage, or the amount of long-term debt it holds relative to long-term debt + shareholder equity. Essentially, it is a measure of how capitalized a company is to support operations and growth. Continue reading...

What is the Debt Ratio?

The debt ratio measures a company’s total debt to total assets. It is the simplest calculation available for determining how indebted a company is on a relative basis. The debt ratio is crucial for determining a company’s financial standing, and should be considered by potential investors. To calculate the debt ratio, one only needs to divide total liabilities (i.e. long-term and short-term liabilities) by total assets. Continue reading...

What is the Price to Earnings Ratio (P/E Ratio)?

The Price to Earnings ratio is a company’s stock price relative to its net income per share. A low P/E indicates that a stock is trading at a low premium to earnings, which may indicate that the market thinks low relative growth rates are ahead for the company. A company with a high P/E means investors are willing to pay a premium for growth, perhaps anticipating high future growth rates for the company. The P/E ratio is calculated by dividing the market value per share of a company by its earnings per share. Continue reading...

What is the Price to Book Ratio (P/B Ratio)?

The price to book ratio compares a company’s current stock market price to its book value (which is generally speaking a company’s net assets). To calculate, an analyst need only divide a company’s latest market price by it book value, which is calculated by taking ‘Total Assets minus Intangible Assets and Liabilities.’ The P/B ratio gives some idea of what premium an investor is paying if the company went bankrupt immediately. Continue reading...

What are Risk-Weighted Assets?

International banking regulations set forth in the Basel Accords require that institutions maintain a certain amount of capital relative to the amount of risk-weighted assets (RWA) they have. Conservative investments such a treasury notes have a risk weighting of zero, while corporate bonds have a weighting of .20, and so forth. The exact weighting system is laid out in Basel agreements. The system is designed to reveal a bank’s level of exposure to potential losses, and the capital requirements are there to balance out the risks and to protect the global economy from a meltdown in the financial system. Continue reading...

What is the Price/Earnings to Growth Ratio (PEG Ratio)?

The Price/Earnings to Growth Ratio (PEG Ratio) is used to determine a company’s value relative to its expected growth. The PEG ratio can be calculated by dividing a company’s P/E by its annual earnings per share growth. A lower PEG ratio may indicate that a company is undervalued relative to its expected growth, and a general rule of thumb is that a PEG ratio below 1 is favorable. Continue reading...

What is the Operating Cash Flow Ratio?

The operating cash flow ratio, or OCF ratio, is used to measure whether a company’s cash flows are sufficient to cover current liabilities. It essentially measures how many times a company can use cash flow from operations to cover debt expenses. It can be measured by dividing a company’s cash flow from operations by its current liabilities. Companies with high (relative to their peers or other companies in the sector OCF ratios are generally in good financial health, meaning they can adequately cover ongoing liabilities with cash flow from operations. Continue reading...

What is the Price to Sales Ratio (P/S Ratio)?

The Price to Sales Ratio, also known as the PSR, is a valuation metric that looks at a stock’s market price versus its per share revenue. Alternatively, you can calculate it by dividing a company’s total market capitalization by its total revenue in the most recent fiscal year. The ratio indicates how much value (how much investors are willing to pay) is placed on each dollar of revenue generated by the company. Continue reading...

What are Debt Ratios?

Debt ratios give a relative picture of a company’s ability to repay debts, make interest payments, and meet other financial obligations. They generally compare the level of debt in a company to the level of assets. Debt ratios are key for investors and particularly creditors, to determine the overall level of financial risk faced by a company. Debt ratios that increasingly turn unattractive can serve as “canaries in a coal mine” that a company is in danger of bankruptcy or default. There are several types of debt ratios, such as debt-to-equity, debt-to-capital, cash flow to debt, and so on. Continue reading...

What is a Quick Ratio?

The quick ratio (also known as an “acid test”) is a financial ratio used to measure how well equipped a company is to meet its short-term liquidity needs. It basically measures how much cash (or assets easily and quickly converted to cash) a company has available to meet its short-term liquidity obligations. Since inventories are assets but are not necessarily liquid, they are excluded from the calculation. Continue reading...

What are Solvency Ratios?

Solvency ratios come in several flavors, but they all seek to shed light on a company’s ability to pay its long-term debt obligations. There are several types of what is known as solvency ratios. Some examples of solvency ratios include debt-to-equity, debt-to-assets, interest-coverage ratio, the quick ratio, the current ratio, and so forth. These are meant to be metrics for a company’s ability to meet its debt obligations through various market conditions. The quick ratio, for instance, can reveal whether the current-year liabilities (payables) of a company are covered by the current year cash and receivables, or whether the company will depend on other sources such as inventory liquidation to meet this need. 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 an Expense Ratio?

Generally associated with mutual funds and exchange traded funds, the expense ratio represents the total annual management fee. The expense ratio is the annual management fee charged to shareholders by ETFs and mutual funds. The annual fee typically comprises the annual management fee, 12b-1 fees (which are associated with research costs), operating costs, and all other administrative type fees that go into the product. The expense ratio encompasses all of these fees as one percentage. Continue reading...

What is Turnover Ratio?

Turnover ratio is a term that can be used in reference to the rate at which a company goes through its physical inventory, or that a mutual fund sells and replaces its investment holdings. In the context of a company’s inventory of goods, a high turnover ratio is a positive sign. It means that a company is selling plenty of its products and is not wasting money on more warehousing space than it needs. This kind of turnover ratio is calculated as the cost of goods sold in a period divided by the average inventory during that time. In the context of mutual funds and ETFs, turnover ratio is a negative thing if it is high. Continue reading...

What is a Liquidity Ratio?

A liquidity ratio is also known as a current ratio, and it generally measures the amount of cash or readily available cash relative to current liabilities. Liquidity ratios are important measures to test a company’s solvency, in addition to its potential ability to handle economic shocks. Continue reading...

What is currency risk?

Countries, investors, and international businesses have to frequently assess currency risk, which is the chance that exchange rates will change unfavorably at inopportune times. An investment in a foreign security or company, or income payments coming from foreign sources, can be at risk for exchange rate changes. If an investor or company has financial interests which are based in another currency, or if the investor engages in Forex trading, currency risk looms over the future value of the holdings, on top of any typical market risk. Continue reading...