Repost: Tips for making your last-minute year-end donations

You’re probably one of the generous benefactors who want to donate a portion of your wealth this year. However and whichever you want to share it with, here are some helpful tips from CNBC that you might want to consider:

Douglas P Sacha | Getty Images

 

If giving to charity is still on your agenda for 2018, there’s still a window of time for you to make that year-end donation.

However, if you make a mistake, your gift might not count for the 2018 tax year.

Of note, new tax rules have made it more difficult to get a deduction for your donations. That is because the standard deduction is so much higher — about $12,000 for individuals and $24,000 for married couples who file jointly.

And your donations (plus any other deductions such as mortgage interest, etc.) must push you over the standard deduction in order for you to itemize on your tax return.

A congressional report earlier this year estimated that just 18 million households would itemize this year, down from 46.5 million in 2017.

If you’re one of them, you need to get started now.

“We’re running out of time, so you need to do it earlier rather than later,” said Michael Duffy, director of the Strategic Wealth Advisory Group at Merrill Lynch Private Banking and Investment Group.

There are rules you need to pay attention to, such as whether you’re giving to charity or to friends and family, and how you’re giving, such as cash, securities or tangible property.

For more insights, continue reading HERE.

Repost: The Most-Bought Tech Stocks Of Investment Gurus

Technology stocks are extremely attractive for many investors, nowadays. Recently, Some of the world’s largest tech giants are listed on Forbes as the most-bought stocks in the tech sector:

Fund managers in the third quarter continued buying tech stocks, a sector that outperformed all others over the past five years.

The S&P 500 Technology SPDR returned 89.84% over the past half decade, more than double the rise in the S&P 500 index. Companies in the sector glided on innovations in the Internet of Things (IoT), cloud computing, artificial intelligence and consumer electronics.

Facebook was the third most-bought stock of investment gurus during the third quarter. The tech sector was the best performing over the past five years. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg© 2018 Bloomberg Finance LP

 

Their ability to generate a profit spurred investor interest. The sector’s net profit margins expanded to 22.1% in the third quarter, their highest since FactSet began tracking data in 2008. It also saw all of its constituents report earnings above estimates.

Nevertheless, some wind left the sector’s sails in this year. It has achieved only a 2.53% gain year to date, making it the fourth-best performer in the S&P 500, though it beat the index’s decline of 1.38%.

Meanwhile, its valuations have fallen, potentially making it more attractive to some investors. GuruFocus calculates its price-earnings ratio at 27.1, significantly below its peak of 39.4 from June and its lowest since March. It has the fourth-highest price-earnings ratio of the 11 sectors in the index.

Analysts have attributed the sector’s drop to lower demand, trade uncertainty with China and overvaluation. Earnings growth is expected to reach 9.8% for 2019, according to FactSet, which in September revised its estimate up from 6.9% in June. Bloomberg data forecasts earnings growth for the sector at 9.7% for 2019 and 10% for 2020.

In the third quarter, the most investors GuruFocus tracks bought shares of the following tech companies: Microsoft, Apple, Facebook, Electronic Arts and Alphabet. This data was found using GuruFocus S&P 500 Screener.

 

Continue reading HERE.

Repost: Approaching Neutral

Here’s a Market update from LOM Financial for the latest Global Market Performance:

Markets rebounded sharply last week with the MSCI World Index gaining 3.40% while the S&P500 rose 4.91%. The bond markets were mainly flat on the week.

The Federal Reserve

The Federal Reserves’ role is to balance unemployment with inflation. It achieves that goal by controlling the cost at which banks can borrow money and by buying companies stocks and bonds in the open market (known as quantitative easing). By lowering interest rates and buying up shares of companies in the open market, they prop up the economy. When they believe the economy is overheating (e.g., almost everyone that wants a job has one and prices of goods are rising), they try to cool things down by raising the interest rates and reducing their balance sheet. The latter is important because an overheated economy would be more likely to engage in risk-taking behaviors and unchecked inflation can erode our ability to save and plan over the long-term.

The new Fed Chair, Jerome Powell, inherited an environment with historically low interest rates and a strong economy. He has been on record expressing concern that the low rates were creating a bond market bubble (declining interest rates increase the price of existing bonds). At the beginning of the year, the aggressive schedule of four rate hikes appeared unlikely. As the impact of the tax cuts appeared to stimulate the economy while the effects of an uncertain quantity of tariffs were yet to be felt, the Fed felt comfortable enough to raise rates.

Markets got spooked in October, when Mr. Powell implied that we were “a long way” from neutral, a rate level that would neither heat up or cool down the economy. That uncertainty, along with other risks like a trade war escalation and a potential hard Brexit, weighed down markets.

In a televised meeting at the Economic Club of New York on Wednesday, Powell was quoted as saying we are now “just below neutral.” I believe this implies the band would be 3-7% (since the historical average is close to 5%). Markets took this as good news, rallying sharply into the second half of the week.

Continue reading HERE.

Repost: Why Retirement Is Broken And Needs To Be Reinvented

Retirement plan – one of the most important long term investments everyone should build. For more retirement and financial advice, read on Forbes:

Ideas for fixing retirement – Getty

Retirement is the #1 financial worry with 65% of Americans worried about it and a majority thinking about it 4 times per week. The core problem is uncertainty – people have no idea how much they need, because we have created a system around building assets instead of income.

We spend our lives saving up a big pile of money in an effort to secure our future against a bewildering set of future risks including market returns, inflation, healthcare and longevity. This is spurred on by the vast majority of players in the financial services industry who want us to save as much as possible and/or “invest” in often complex, opaque and expensive products since their income is based on a percent of your assets (AUM) or on transaction fees where the price is not clearly marked.

An average 401(k) investor who pays 1% investment fees on a portfolio earning 4% will lose about 33% of their returns to those fees over a 20 year period. Put another way if you have $1M, then $400K in returns are lost to fees over 20 years (fees that go to your fund provider, broker or financial advisor).

I’ve talked with hundreds of our users who are planning for retirement, most of whom have $500,000 to a few million saved and they are all worried about whether they have enough and how they will generate retirement income and manage healthcare.

Continue reading HERE.

 

 

 

REPOST: Gold inches higher as dollar dips amid risk aversion

Spot gold was up 0.2 percent at $1,239.86 per ounce. Meanwhile, Spot palladium rose 0.1 percent to $1,245.00 per ounce. Here’s the latest update from CNBC :

Getty Images

Gold edged higher on Thursday as growing risk aversion weighed on the dollar, while palladium held ground at a premium to the bullion.
Spot gold was up 0.2 percent at $1,239.86 per ounce, as of 0429 GMT, while U.S. gold futures were 0.2 percent higher at $1,244.9 per ounce.
“Markets are trying to consolidate, trying to push up higher for now,” said Benjamin Lu, a commodities analyst with Phillip Futures.

A balance between a host of factors such as a rate hike by the U.S. Federal Reserve in December, uncertainty about trade tensions between Washington and Beijing, and a flattening yield curve has helped create a premium for the bullion, Lu added.
Fed policymakers will gather at a Dec. 18-19 meeting, at which the central bank is widely expected to raise interest rates.

“Although a rate hike is already priced in, markets will be closely watching the meeting for clues on rate hike timings in 2019,” said Lukman Otunuga, a research analyst at FXTM, adding that: “if the meeting echoes a similar message to (Chairman Jerome) Powell’s dovish shift, gold has the potential to shine into 2019.”

The dollar declined against the safe-haven yen as a spike in risk aversion pressured equities and U.S. Treasury yields. The spread between the two-year and five-year Treasury yields inverted this week and the two-year/10-year spread was at its flattest in more than a decade amid a sharp fall in long-term rates.

Continue reading HERE.

REPOST: Oil prices soar after U.S., China suspend trade hostilities

Here is some good news from Reuters for the oil and gas community:

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Oil prices shot higher on Monday after the United States and China agreed a 90-day truce in their trade conflict and ahead of a meeting by producer club OPEC this week that is expected to result in a supply cut.

FILE PHOTO: A female employee fills the tank of a car at a petrol station in Cairo, Egypt, February 24, 2016. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany/File Photo

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures CLc1 were at $53.38 per barrel at 0220 GMT, up $2.45 per barrel, or 4.8 percent from their last close.

International Brent crude oil futures LCOc1 were up $2.38 per barrel, or 4 percent, at $61.84 a barrel.

China and the United States agreed during the meeting of the Group of 20 (G20) leading economies in Argentina over the weekend not to impose additional trade tariffs for at least 90 days while the pair hold talks to resolve existing disputes.

The trade war between the world’s two biggest economies has weighed heavily on global trade, sparking concerns of an economic slowdown.

 

Continue reading HERE.

What makes hedge funds different from other investment options?

Image source: LOM Financial

In definition, a hedge fund is a pooled fund that utilizes several strategies to manage and invest funds. It is primarily a managed fund that can invest in bonds, commodities, stocks, or even in real estate. How it differs from a mutual fund is that, with a hedge fund, anyone who wishes to invest should be accredited.

That is, their minimum annual income should fall under a specific net worth, depending on the country they are in. In the United States, for instance, you need to have at least $1 million to be a part of a hedge fund. Most important, these investors should have the crucial knowledge for investing. Unlike mutual fund investors, hedge fund investors are also known as the “sophisticated investors”.

When talking about the structure of hedge funds, one can see some similarities to mutual funds. For instance, like the latter which depends on sub-advisors to manage the funds, the former can be run by managers. However, unlike mutual funds, hedge funds cover a wider range of investment strategies and a broader list of the kinds of investment positions that they can follow.

The most commonly known hedge fund structure is called the “limited or general partnership” model. Here, the general partner takes on the responsibility to operate the funds. On the other hand, limited partners can only invest into the partnership but can only be liable for their own paid-in amounts.

Typically, the general partner uses a typical structure, the limited liability company, also known as LLC. In this case, the general partner has the responsibility to both manage and market the funds. Additionally, they can perform the important functions such as hiring fund managers as well as administering the fund’s operations.

Why the US-China Trade war can be a good thing for other economies

Image source: CNN Money

Despite the growing tension between China and the United States because of their ongoing trade war, experts and economic analysts argue that something good could still grow from the rising spat, especially for specific countries and economies that provide agricultural and petroleum-based products.

India, for instance, is one of the countries that can enjoy the benefits of the US-China trade war, especially on their cotton export sector. How? Basically, the United States is the number one exporter in the world of products such as fiber and it mainly answers to the biggest demands of millions of Chinese consumers – and the growing dispute may change all that.

With China’s imposition of a 25-percent tax on imported goods especially on U.S. farm commodities, including tones of cotton every year, this opens up an opportunity for other suppliers, especially India, to take on the role and engage with the huge Chinese market.

In fact, several contracts between Indian suppliers and Chinese importers have already been closed, assigning the biggest advanced deals of this year, with 500,000 bales of cotton heading directly to China after the first harvest season.

The same pattern will be expected once China finalizes its plan of imposing higher tariffs for goods from the U.S., especially when it comes to agricultural products – and this is where other countries of Asia can enter the picture.

Additionally, energy experts also predict that the expensive value of the U.S. oil due to the current US-China trade war may prompt Chinese purchases to focus on other sources such as Iran. In other words, China can easily replace their American-sourced oil with a much cheaper and accessible Iranian crude oil.

World’s rapidly shrinking industries

Image source: seattletimes.com

Most people believe that they are already living in the future, with all the innovations and technological advancements that the modern world has to offer. However, as the influence and power of the emerging sectors rise to the pedestal, the older and less technology-based industries are slowly shrinking.

Here are the rapidly dying industries that may not be able to cope with the pace of a technology-driven future.

Record Store and Recordable Media Industry

The increasing reliance of consumers on the internet has caused several industries to crash, and one of these is the recordable media manufacturing industry. CDs, DVDs and cassette tapes used to be the compact and portable solution for music lovers worldwide, but the latest introduction of music and movie streaming services online made these once practical options a rather inconvenient and old-fashioned alternative.

In fact, recent statistics show that the shift to music streaming has caused the music industry to lose billions in revenue, primarily because of the sudden change in consumer listening behavior.

Data Recovery Service Industry

The decline of the data recovery industry has been predicted years ago when the cloud storage technology was introduced to the public. Cloud-based systems from companies like Google, Amazon, and Rackspace give private users and even companies to store digital files of their system in a secure and easily accessible online storage.

Wired Telecommunications Carrier Industry

Even your trusty landline is facing an industry decline. Ever since the world became fascinated with the wireless and cordless power of cellular phones, many have seen the imminent death of the wired telecom carriers industry not only in the U.S. but also around the world.

Landlines used to be the main channel for communicating, but mobile smartphones have exceeded the former’s capabilities in terms of function, cost, and connectivity.

The fascinating history of the modern private equity industry

Image source: pixabay.com

The modern private equity industry has an interesting history that dates back to 1946 when the very first venture capital firms were founded. One of them was the American Research and Development Corporation and the other was J.H. Whitney & Company. For 35 years until the late 1970s, several small volumes of investments focused on private equity were recorded.

But private equity, despite its early success among relatively smaller firms on Wall Street, became dormant for quite some time. However, the start of the 1980s gave way to headlines of several major buyouts that catapulted the industry into the frontlines.

For one, the story of Jerome Kohlberg, Jr. and Henry Kravis’ effort to form Kohlberg Kravis Roberts (KKR) followed by their famous purchase of the RJR Nabisco through a leveraged buyout became an inspiration for a book and a film, Barbarians at the Gate.

Although it was not the first LBO in history, the RJR Nabisco buyout was one of the largest at the time and the most phenomenal. Unfortunately, the KKR investment did not fare that long and ended in a substantial failure. From 1979 through 1989, thousands of leveraged buyouts were executed, recording a total transaction value of more than $250 billion.

The pre-2008 and the post-2008 eras of the private equity posed new challenges and advantages for the industry. During the early years of the 2000s, the changes in the liberal US monetary policy coupled with stronger credit markets make a blockbuster and large-scale buyouts possible for successful equity firms.

The years following 2008, however, introduced a new environment for private equity investing. The global economic crisis and the credit crunch as the primary obstacles prevented firms from obtaining debt financing and finding more attractive investments.

As the economy began to show signs of improvement, private equity buyouts also started to emerge and began their slow return to the financial scene. At present, the private equity industry is a booming environment that has become more acceptable to the public. Many modern-day investment companies, including those offshore such as LOM Financial, have capitalized on this sector’s potential as a viable investment option for portfolio diversification. They mostly have a long history of facilitating private placements in both listed companies or as-yet to be listed companies.