Monday, October 26, 2009
Investing online, or self-directed investing, has become the norm for individual investors and traders over the past decade with many, if not all brokers now offering online services with unique trading platforms.
In the past, investors had to call up their brokers and place an order on the phone. The broker would then enter the order in their system which was linked to trading floors and exchanges.
With the advent of the internet, investors can now enter orders directly online, or even trade with other investors via ECN's (electronic communication networks). Some orders entered online are still routed through the broker allowing agents to approve or monitor the trades. This step assists in the protection of both the client and brokerage firm from unlawful or incorrect trades which could affect the client’s portfolio or the broker’s license.
Online brokers are most often referred to as discount brokers, due to their lower fees as opposed to full service brokers who also give advice to clients.
Before choosing to invest or trade online it is important for investors to research the online brokers that they plan to employ, assuring that they are licensed within their state or provincial jurisdiction. This step will help to protect investors from falling victim to unlawful or illegal securities schemes (e.g. Boiler Room scams).
Investors must also fully understand the potential risks of investing without the help of a trained Stock Broker or Investment Advisor. These professionals are experienced both in trade and education and forgoing their advice could be costly. For this reason, most online brokers offer a number of investment tools.
Once the above two steps are complete it is dually important to research the sector, business and financial statements of each company whose stock they plan to purchase. This, along with diversification and basic portfolio theory, will assist to mitigate some of the risks associated with the volatility in both the stocks and the stock markets.
Once investors have chosen an online brokerage that best suits their needs, they will be provided a trading platform. This platform acts as the hub, allowing investors to purchase and sell securities (fixed income and equities), options, mutual funds, and forex. Included with the platform are tools to track and monitor securities, portfolios and indices, as well as research tools, real-time streaming quotes and up-to-date news releases; all of which are necessary to trade profitably. Often, more robust research tools are available such as full, in-depth analyst reports and analysis, and customized backtesting to see how particular investment strategies would have been realized during different historical periods.
Some of the popular online brokers include: E*TRADE, Scottrade, Ameritrade, and Fidelity. Schwab is an example of a hybrid broker combining a traditional, brick-and-mortar brokerage house with discounted trading online, with the usual benefits of both available to customers. Commissions vary from broker to broker, depending on the services included with the account. Some less known online brokers are Forex, Interactive Brokers, Lightspeed, Marsco, optionsXpress and Zecco.
Thursday, October 22, 2009
Sunday, October 18, 2009
What are the advantages of the Forex Market over other types of investments?
When thinking about various investments, there is one investment vehicle that comes to mind. The Forex or Foreign Currency Market has many advantages over other types of investments. The Forex market is open 24 hrs a day, unlike the regular stock markets. Most investments require a substantial amount of capital before you can take advantage of an investment opportunity. To trade Forex, you only need a small amount of capital. Anyone can enter the market with as little as $300 USD to trade a "mini account", which allows you to trade lots of 10,000 units. One lot of 10,000 units of currency is equal to 1 contract. Each "pip" or move up or down in the currency pair is worth a $1 gain or loss, depending on which side of the market you are on. A standard account gives you control over 100,000 units of currency and a pip is worth $10.
The Forex market is also very liquid. When trading Forex you have full control of your capital.
Many other types of investments require holding your money up for long periods of time. This is a disadvantage because if you need to use the capital it can be difficult to access to it without taking a huge loss. Also, with a small amount of money, you can control
Forex traders can be profitable in bullish or bearish market conditions. Stock market traders need stock prices to rise in order to take a profit. Forex traders can make a profit during up trends and downtrends. Forex Trading can be risky, but with having the ability to have a good system to follow, good money management skills, and possessing self discipline, Forex trading can be a relatively low risk investment.
The Forex market can be traded anytime, anywhere. As long as you have access to a computer, you have the ability to trade the Forex market. An important thing to remember is before jumping into trading currencies, is it wise to practice with "paper money", or "fake money." Most brokers have demo accounts where you can download their trading station and practice real time with fake money. While this is no guarantee of your performance with real money, practicing can give you a huge advantage to become better prepared when you trade with your real, hard earned money. There are also many Forex courses on the internet, just be careful when choosing which ones to purchase.
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
An interest rate derivative is a derivative where the underlying asset is the right to pay or receive a (usually notional) amount of money at a given interest rate.
The interest rate derivatives market is the largest derivatives market in the world. Market observers estimate that US$60 trillion by notional value of interest rate derivatives contract had been exchanged by May 2004. Measuring the size of the market is difficult because trading in the interest rate derivative market is largely done over-the-counter. According to the International Swaps and Derivatives Association, 80% of the world's top 500 companies as of April 2003 used interest rate derivatives to control their cashflows. This compares with 75% for foreign exchange options, 25% for commodity options and 10% for stock options.
Friday, October 9, 2009
In economics, the term currency can refer either to a particular currency, for example the US dollar, or to the coins and banknotes of a particular currency, which comprise the physical aspects of a nation's money supply. The other part of a nation's money supply consists of money deposited in banks (sometimes called deposit money), ownership of which can be transferred by means of cheques or other forms of money transfer such as credit and debit cards. Deposit money and currency are money in the sense that both are acceptable as a means of exchange, but money need not necessarily be currency.
Historically, money in the form of currency has predominated. Usually (gold or silver) coins of intrinsic value commensurate with the monetary unit (commodity money), have been the norm. By contrast, modern currency, as fiat money, is intrinsically worthless. The prevalence of one type of currency over another in commodity money systems has arisen, usually when a government designates through decrees, that only particular monetary units shall be accepted in payment for taxes.
Monday, October 5, 2009
The banking industry is a highly regulated industry with detailed and focused regulators. All banks with FDIC-insured deposits have the FDIC as a regulator; however, for examinations,[clarification needed] the Federal Reserve is the primary federal regulator for Fed-member state banks; the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (“OCC”) is the primary federal regulator for national banks; and the Office of Thrift Supervision, or OTS, is the primary federal regulator for thrifts. State non-member banks are examined by the state agencies as well as the FDIC. National banks have one primary regulator—the OCC.
Each regulatory agency has their own set of rules and regulations to which banks and thrifts must adhere.
The Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council (FFIEC) was established in 1979 as a formal interagency body empowered to prescribe uniform principles, standards, and report forms for the federal examination of financial institutions. Although the FFIEC has resulted in a greater degree of regulatory consistency between the agencies, the rules and regulations are constantly changing.
In addition to changing regulations, changes in the industry have led to consolidations within the Federal Reserve, FDIC, OTS and OCC. Offices have been closed, supervisory regions have been merged, staff levels have been reduced and budgets have been cut. The remaining regulators face an increased burden with increased workload and more banks per regulator. While banks struggle to keep up with the changes in the regulatory environment, regulators struggle to manage their workload and effectively regulate their banks. The impact of these changes is that banks are receiving less hands-on assessment by the regulators, less time spent with each institution, and the potential for more problems slipping through the cracks, potentially resulting in an overall increase in bank failures across the United States.
The changing economic environment has a significant impact on banks and thrifts as they struggle to effectively manage their interest rate spread in the face of low rates on loans, rate competition for deposits and the general market changes, industry trends and economic fluctuations. It has been a challenge for banks to effectively set their growth strategies with the recent economic market. A rising interest rate environment may seem to help financial institutions, but the effect of the changes on consumers and businesses is not predictable and the challenge remains for banks to grow and effectively manage the spread to generate a return to their shareholders.
The management of the banks’ asset portfolios also remains a challenge in today’s economic environment. Loans are a bank’s primary asset category and when loan quality becomes suspect, the foundation of a bank is shaken to the core. While always an issue for banks, declining asset quality has become a big problem for financial institutions. There are several reasons for this, one of which is the lax attitude some banks have adopted because of the years of “good times.” The potential for this is exacerbated by the reduction in the regulatory oversight of banks and in some cases depth of management. Problems are more likely to go undetected, resulting in a significant impact on the bank when they are recognized. In addition, banks, like any business, struggle to cut costs and have consequently eliminated certain expenses, such as adequate employee training programs.
Banks also face a host of other challenges such as aging ownership groups. Across the country, many banks’ management teams and board of directors are aging. Banks also face ongoing pressure by shareholders, both public and private, to achieve earnings and growth projections. Regulators place added pressure on banks to manage the various categories of risk. Banking is also an extremely competitive industry. Competing in the financial services industry has become tougher with the entrance of such players as insurance agencies, credit unions, check cashing services, credit card companies, etc.
As a reaction, banks have developed their activities in financial instruments, through financial market operations such as brokerage and trading and become big players in such activities.