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What are futures contracts?

Futures contracts constitute a binding agreement to trade a commodity, share, or instrument at a future date at an agreed-upon price. They are auctioned on regulated futures exchanges. Futures contracts are used primarily to deal with agricultural assets and natural resources but have come into use for anything that can be commoditized, including financial instruments and technological resources. 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 can I find out about hedge funds?

Hedge funds have historically been very secretive. They still mainly fall under Regulation D and private-placement laws, but their reporting requirements have been slightly expanded after the Dodd-Frank Act in 2010. Now, they are a little more transparent, but not fully. Up until the Dodd-Frank Act, it was basically impossible to know what hedge funds were investing in and who was involved. Hedge fund managers and their investment banks were under no obligation to report the holdings, and they generally avoided leaking any information about their market positions for fear of damaging their advantages. Continue reading...

What has been the historical performance of IPOs?

Many studies have investigated the benefits of purchasing IPOs, and the results might surprise you. Despite the fact that new issues tend to be priced at a discount from the price that underwriters have decided is a fair valuation, their performance after the initial frenzy tends to be lackluster. While most investors think that IPOs are good investments, this is not exactly true. There are IPOs that have doubled or tripled in price during the first day, and there are IPOs that opened trading below the original IPO price (and anything in between). For short term trading, it can go either way, but if the IPO is a “hot issue,” meaning that there are more indications of interest than there are shares to fill the orders, the average investor will not be able to procure IPO shares anyway. Continue reading...

Should I buy IPOs for my portfolio?

You may find it difficult to find IPO shares to buy if you are not already a very active and wealthy investor, but if that is the case then you may be a good candidate for IPO shares. For investors who are less affluent and less experienced, you can still pick up a mutual fund or ETF that gives you IPO exposure, if it fits in with your portfolio. In the 1990s, there was a mad rush to buy IPOs: an IPO could be traded at $10 at the beginning of the day and at $100 at the end – you could be instantly rich if you were able to get your hands on an IPO for some of the many tech firms that sprouted up before the turn of the millennium. Continue reading...

What is a Housing Bubble?

Bubbles form in markets when there is such a large amount of demand that it drives prices up to levels where it is no longer supported by inherent value. Bubbles have effects on an interconnected web of economic forces and institutions. It was postulated before 2008 that the housing market could not form a bubble in the same way the stock market could, but the subprime meltdown proved those theorists wrong. Bubbles are when a market suffers from unnatural price inflation due to speculation, bandwagon investing, and, to some extent, misinformation. 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 are Marketable Securities?

Marketable securities is a term referring to assets / securities that can be converted to cash easily, at least within a year. Examples of marketable securities are stocks, bonds, or CDs you might buy at the bank. What makes an asset a marketable security is its ability to be redeemed for cash quickly at a known market price. What is a Broker-Dealer? What is an Illiquid Security? Continue reading...

What is an Illiquid Security?

An illiquid security is one that cannot easily be sold or exchanged for cash on a timely basis. The lack of ready buyers tends to create a fairly sizable discrepancy between what a seller wants and what a buyer is offering, versus an orderly market where assets change hands at high volumes and therefore have high liquidity. An illiquid security should generally be held only if the investor/owner has a long-time horizon, and therefore can handle the risk of not being able to offload the asset easily. Continue reading...

What are Fibonacci Retracements?

Fibonacci Retracements are places where a Fibonacci lines and arcs. If a retracement has a length that proportionally fits within certain parameters in comparison to the uptrend that preceded it, some traders attempt to predict the size of the uptrend that will come afterwards using Fibonacci numbers. The most popular retracement percentages to use are 23.6%, 38.2%, 50%, 61.8%, and 100%. Fibonacci numbers are part of the Fibonacci sequence, where the two previous numbers are added together to calculate the next number in the sequence. The ratio of two Fibonacci numbers is the Golden Ratio, or 1.61803398875, which has been used since ancient times as the perfect proportion in architecture and other design. The Golden Ratio is also known as Phi (pronounced “fee”). Because Fibonacci numbers are found throughout the natural world, they have been integrated into some traders’ strategies for market analysis. Continue reading...

What are Fibonacci Clusters?

Fibonacci lines, retracements, and extensions are used by chartists to identify possible future support and resistance levels, as well as areas where there may be reversals. Investors can use this information to put hedges or speculative bets in place, if they believe that, like many naturally occurring systems in nature, the market behavior will exhibit some fractal-like forms that can be measured with Fibonacci sequence numbers and the Golden Ratio. Continue reading...

What is a bear straddle?

A Bear Straddle is another name for a short straddle, in which the investor writes (goes short) on both a call and a put, for the same strike price and expiration, on the same underlying stock. A short straddle can be called a bearish position because the investor believes that the underlying will basically hibernate until expiration. As long as the price of the underlying remains close to the strike price, the investor can make a profit, with the maximum profit being the premium collected from the sale of the options which have expired worthless. Continue reading...

What is a Security?

A security is a marketable ownership contract which entitles the owner to the right to use the contract as a type of currency backed by a specific asset, which could be partial ownership in a company, a debt (bond), or a derivative interest. Securities are broadly categorized into debt securities (e.g., bonds), equity securities (e.g., stock), and derivatives (e.g., futures, options, etc.). They will generally be issued by a company or government entity and will entitle the owner of the contract the right to trade the ownership interest for value in the open market. Continue reading...

What should I know about IPOs?

IPOs are initial public offerings of a private company ready to turn public and trade on an exchange, with the scrutiny of shareholders. IPOs are priced by the investment bank selling them, instead of the supply and demand of the market. Many have heard the term "IPO" (Initial Public Offering), which is the issuance of the first publicly-available shares of a company. It actually represents the only capital a company will ever raise with its stocks, unless they issue more at another time or if they have issued convertible bonds or warrants. After the IPO, any money made on those shares of stock will be by the buyers and sellers in the market, which is known as the Secondary Market-- the Primary Market is where stocks are issued and purchased directly from the company. Continue reading...

What is market disruption?

Market disruption is a term that describes the state of affairs when the status quo of the stock market or a particular industry’s market is destabilized. This could include the entry of what’s called a disruptive technology or new competitive company, or a natural disaster, or technical difficulties with the computer network that the exchanges use. It is also commonly used to refer to a panic or mania that makes the market disorderly and is stemmed through the use of circuit breakers. Continue reading...

What is a Junior Security?

Junior Securities come last in the pecking order if a company gets liquidated; common stock shares are the most prevalent example. Junior securities are securities such as common stock which would be the last in order to receive any payout if the company were to go bankrupt. Examples of securities which are senior are Preferred Stock and Bonds; senior securities receive service first in the event of company insolvency. 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...

Should I buy other currencies?

The U.S. dollar is the world’s reserve currency, so generally speaking, if you are not planning to travel to foreign countries or do not have the need for foreign currencies in your business, you might as well stay with U.S. dollars. If you are using foreign currencies in your investment portfolio, you must be prepared for volatility and continue to educate yourself on the Forex market as well as international trade. The famous example of George Soros, who almost destroyed the Bank of England, and made a couple of billion dollars along the way, might not necessarily be applicable to you. Continue reading...

Are Social Security Benefits Taxed?

Many people do not realize that their Social Security Benefits may be taxed. If you have a taxable income in retirement above a certain threshold, up to 85% of your social security benefits can be taxed. The calculation for the threshold income actually includes half of your social security benefits. Whether or not you trigger taxation on your benefits will depend on your “combined” income, which is a sum of your adjusted gross income (taxable income, which can include taxable sources such as qualified retirement plans), your nontaxable interest (from Muni bonds in particular, Roth IRAs are excludable), and half of your household Social Security benefits. Continue reading...

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