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What are forward contracts?

Forward contracts are agreements to exchange specific assets on a specific date, at a price determined at the outset. Forward contracts are similar to futures contracts, but they are over-the-counter private contracts drafted for specific purposes, quantities, and dates that satisfy the specific needs of the counter-parties. These contracts are mostly entered into by institutional investors seeking a hedge against risks such as interest rates and exchange rates. Continue reading...

What is “contango?”

Contango is when the price of a futures contract is higher than the current spot price of a commodity, and the expected future spot price. Some contango falls within the normal range, but too much is generally unfavorable. Contango means that the price of a futures contract has become inflated beyond the expected price range of a commodity. Backwardation is the word for the opposite of contango, in which futures contracts are being sold for less than the current spot price and below the probable future spot price. Some backwardation and contango is part of life and considered normal, but contango markets can have a particularly negative impact on some ETFs. Continue reading...

What is a Settlement Date?

The length of time after a trade is executed that the securities are due delivered and the payment is due paid varies for different types of transactions, but the date on which this occurs is the settlement date. Most exchange-traded corporate securities in the United States are required to be settled three days after the trade order is entered, which is called T+3. That date is the settlement date, and is the final date on which the transaction must be finalized by both parties involved. Continue reading...

What is currency exchange?

Currencies can be exchanged for other currencies, and there are more reasons to do this than most people realize. People are familiar with the currency exchange in the context of tourists stopping by a currency exchange kiosk so that they can buy trinkets at the local tourist traps, but the Foreign Exchange (Forex) market, where currencies are traded, is the largest market in the world by far. Currencies are exchanged for each other on a massive scale on the international Forex market. Thousands of banks connect through electronic trading systems which are part of the interbank forex market. Millions of smaller-scale traders and individuals also engage in Forex trading, either over-the-counter or on regulated international exchanges. Continue reading...

Who is a commodity trader?

Commodity traders must at least pass the FINRA Series 3 exam, which focuses on the commodities market exclusively. The term “trader” is often used in reference to the people at an investment firm who work on the actual trading desk, sometimes executing trade orders from the front office but also trading for the account of the firm and sometimes giving investment advice. Traders often have a role to seek out and engage in trades that will improve the portfolio of the firm at which they are employed and benefit the clients of the firm. Commodity traders could work for a commodity pool or they could be a commodity specialist at a firm focused on a wider variety of investing. 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 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 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 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...

What is the Unemployment Rate?

There are a few ways to measure unemployment, but it is normally interpreted as a percentage of the working-age population that does not have a job. The statistics that are used to determine unemployment rate typically use the number of unemployed people who are actively searching for a job. The Bureau of Labor Statistics conducts a monthly poll called the Current Population Survey which goes out to about 50,000 households, and this is a significant source of unemployment data. Continue reading...

AAA/Aaa — credit rating

AAA — S&P / Fitch Aaa — Moody’s AAA/Aaa rated bond issues have an almost nonexistent chance of defaulting, according to the major ratings institutions that issue the ratings. AAA/Aaa is the highest rating a bond issue or company can get. In the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis and recession, many companies, and the US Government itself, were downgraded from AAA to AA+. Only two companies in the US still retain the AAA rating: Johnson & Johnson and Microsoft. Continue reading...

B+/B1 — credit rating

B+ — S&P / Fitch B1 — Moody’s B+/B1 is within the range of ratings given to High Yield Bonds, also known as Junk bonds. B+/B1 is the 14th rating rating from the top rating of AAA/Aaa in the scales used by the Big Three credit ratings institutions, which are Fitch, Moody’s and S&P. They evaluate the fundamentals of companies, municipal entities, and their bond contracts to determine how much risk of default is present. The limit for the category of Investment Grade bonds is BBB-, and there are a few categories of BB above B. Continue reading...

B/B2 — credit rating

B — S&P / Fitch B2 — Moody’s A bond issue that has a moderate chance of default but a high yield might be given a B2/B rating by the major ratings institutions. Bonds are rated based on their risk of default by the Big Three ratings institutions: Moody’s, Fitch, and S&P. The latter two use the same symbols, so if the algorithms and analysts at the two ratings institutions come to similar conclusions, a company might have the same rating from each of them, such as the “B” in this example. B2/B ratings are the 15th ratings down the scale from the top rating of AAA/Aaa. Continue reading...

B-/B3 — credit rating

B- — S&P / Fitch B3 — Moody’s In the world of junk bonds, a B3/B- rating is about as low of a rating as most investors will venture to explore. Bonds are rated by independent ratings institutions known as the Big Three: Moody’s, Fitch, and S&P. Two companies, S&P and Fitch, use the same symbols, and the B- in this example belongs to them. Moody’s has its own system, and the B3 in this example is theirs. Continue reading...

What is the Prime Rate

The prime rate is the lowest interest rate that banks will charge on loans at a given time, based on the Federal Funds Rate. Individual banks set their own prime rate, which they may also call their "Reference Rate" or "Base Lending Rate." It is the least they will charge for a loan at a given time, based on the creditworthiness of the customer, and the only clients whose risk of default is low enough to approach the prime rate are very large commercial clients. 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...