Wednesday, September 30, 2009

How to Pick the Best Broker to Buy Stocks Online

With increasing frequency, investors are turning to Web-based platforms in order to buy stocks online. However, it's rarely a simple matter to pinpoint the best choice of brokerage firm.

In fact, the top candidate will depend in large part on the particular use of the brokerage account. As an example, a long-term investor who trades rarely should be more concerned about the dependability of the broker than the fees charged for each transaction.

Even in the case of a particular type of trader, the best choice will depend on a number of factors. For instance, one popular firm charges a fixed fee regardless of the number of shares traded. In that case, an account with this firm would be useful for a trader with a smallish portfolio who buys and sells a lot of low-priced stocks.

More on How to Pick the Best Broker to Buy Stocks Online.

Crunch of Hedge Funds

After a Sweeping Wipeout at the Dawn of the Millennium, Hedge Funds Face a Patchy Future.

With increasing frequency, hedge funds have come to play a starring role in major blowouts in the financial arena. A showcase was the crash of October 2008, a debacle that wiped out trillions of dollars in the stock market, knocked down the banking system, and stamped out the routine loans needed by mainstream companies to go about their business.

In the wake of the deluge, the players in the hedge fund game collapsed by the thousands. Even so, the washout of the pools en masse will not spell the end of financial meltdowns. Rather, fresh waves of newcomers to the field are sure to step into the void and take up similar techniques. For this reason, blowouts of all sorts will continue to flare up in the future.

On a positive note, though, it is a straightforward task for the investor to avoid the dangers that plague the field of hedge funds. A healthy skepticism for dicey schemes and a disdain for excess leverage are the main traits needed to steer clear of the pitfalls.

More on Crunch of Hedge Funds.

Speed to Market: How to Pick the Right Pace in a Competitive Forum

According to a popular adage in business, speed to market is the key to success in a competitive arena. Whether the project involves a solitary product or an entire venture, the speedster believes in the power of agility.

The point of dashing into the market is to stake out a dominant position before anyone else gets the chance. In business, as in warfare, it's far easier to defend an entrenched position than to eject an opponent from the same locale.

On the other hand, a different school of thought favors a guarded approach to the objective. The credo of this group is to work out the kinks and sand down the burrs before releasing a brand-new creation into the open forum.

According to the precept of polish-before-you-unleash, you only get one chance to make a first impression on the consumer as well as the critic. If you blow the initial rollout, then you might as well kiss your plans goodbye. In the wake of the flop, it will be difficult – if not impossible – to overcome the tainted image of the product or venture in the public consciousness.

The arguments of the speednik as well as the polisher have their respective merits. Sadly for the strategist, though, the two schemes are at odds with each other.

More precisely, you can’t rush into the marketplace if you take the time to buff up the handiwork to your heart’s content. Something’s got to give.

So how do you reconcile the contrasting views? The short answer is that it depends on the context.

However, the question also deserves a longer answer. And that is a good pretext for reading the rest of this article.

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Sunday, September 27, 2009

Hedge Funds

The Rise, Fall and Hash of Hedge Funds in the Marketplace

The field of hedge funds burgeoned during the second half of the 20th century. In the quest of quick profits, hedge funds had a penchant for piling up leverage on a massive scale.

By going out on a limb, the operators came to wield an enormous amount of influence on the marketplace. From the 1990s onward, the punters began to play a dominant role in causing or compounding one bombshell after another in the arena.

A watershed was the crash of 2008, a catastrophe of monumental scale that ripped through the financial system. The bombshell not only smashed up the capital markets but knocked out the banking system to boot. Given the penchant for leverage within the group, a direct consequence of the smash-up was the wipe-out of myriads of pools.

The debacle was a turning point for the field of hedge funds. In their current form, the agents of upheaval are unlikely to regain the ability to throw their weight around to the same extent they once did.

Certainly, there will be no shortage of leverage nor upthrows in the marketplace over the decades to come. On the other hand, the main characters in the drama are apt to differ in a variety of ways from the hedge funds of the past.

The tumultuous history of levered pools in the modern era serves as the backdrop for the current collection of articles being penned. In particular, the pieces deal with a medley of vital issues in the past, present and future of hedge funds.

More on Hedge Funds.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

International Real Estate for Investment and Retirement: A Primer

An investor in international real estate has to consider a lot of factors before deciding on a particular property. The key issues span the gamut from global trends in real estate to local features of the target neighborhood.

In seeking out a suitable property for investment, the first order of business is to gather background information on the target markets. For this task, the relevant factors span the gamut from the macrolevel of the economy to the microlevel of the property. An example of the former is the prospect for economic growth in a target country, or the affordability of housing in relation to local wages. Meanwhile a sample of the latter is the character of the neighborhood or the plans of the local government for urban development throughout the district.

A second point is that a serious investor has to take the trouble to visit the country in person. In fact, the visitor ought to make the journey more than once in order to get a decent feel for the country, the region, and the neighborhood. Without the broad-based perspective, it is well-nigh impossible to figure out whether the prices on the market are reasonable for the area.

A third aspect involves the direction and speed of movement for the local market. In particular, the investor has to figure out whether the price level is headed upward – and if so, how quickly.

A fourth factor is the choice of a reputable agent who can help the investor with the logistic and bureaucratic issues in buying a local property. The agent should also be a valuable source of information in discussing relative merits of different niches within the locality. A competent agent should also have some informed opinions on large-scale trends within the target country as well as the entire region.

A fifth task for the investor is to talk to their financial advisor and tax counselor in order to explore alternative vehicles for buying and managing the property. An example in this vein is to weigh the relative merits of purchasing the property directly as a private individual versus holding it indirectly after setting up a holding company. The financial as well as legal implications will depend on a raft of factors ranging from the personal circumstances of the investor to the tax regulations in the target jurisdiction as well the investor’s country of residency.

A sixth factor is the exit strategy. Before taking on a big responsibility, it’s a good idea in any aspect of life to know in advance how things will wrap up in due course.

In the case of real estate, the investor has to figure out a number of things before even buying a property. Examples of this sort include the expected length of the holding period as well as the mode of disposal at the end of the planning horizon.

To sum up, an investor in international real estate has a slew of issues to consider. The good news is that there is plenty of background information in the realm of bits as well as bricks. 

Further Information

The following article provides more information on the challenges and opportunities in buying property abroad: International Real Estate for Investment and Retirement: A Primer and Guide to the Best Resources.  Moreover, the writeup provides a number of guidelines for avoiding common mistakes that beset investors in foreign real estate. Another significant feature of the article is a guide to the top resources for investing in property abroad.