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.

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.

How to take advantage of Influencer Marketing to promote your brand

Image source: pixabay.com

The popularity of the Social Media and other online networking platforms gave rise to influential online personalities, also known as “influencers,” who use their massive followings to promote their ideas, share their skills, or even empower people to move and make a difference.

Different influencers represent specific niche, creating content for a particular demographic or social group. Having this access to a particular audience gives them the power to reach the people who actively consume their content – and this particular structure makes influencer marketing a great tool when it comes to online marketing, even for small businesses.

In fact, many companies who made it into the top have sought the help of influencers to promote their brand to their target market. Small or big enterprises have their options when choosing their influencer marketing strategy based on their budget: investing in micro-infuencers or large-scale influencers.

However, investing in influencers to promote your brand is not as simple as paying someone with an impressive number of followers to mention your product or services. The first challenge that you might encounter is how you can reach out to them. While it’s easy to talk to lesser-known influencers, their more popular counterparts with over 100,000 followers may not be as accessible.

Choosing the influencers to promote your products should also be properly considered. The most important things to keep in mind is the quality of the influencer’s content. Additionally, the ideas that they represent should also align with your brand.

Lastly, credibility and validity should also be taken into consideration and this is where research will help the most. Bots, spam, and followers from fake accounts often make up a relatively large percentage of their list so make sure to check for a “verified” icon on their profile.

The economics of the Oscars and what it means for film producers

The film industry is not just an avenue where filmmakers and actors can create art and expression through their work – it’s also a type of business where producers and movie makers expect to double or even triple their investments.

While some earn their prize in the box office and other business models designed to market and sell products related to the film franchise, other channels where moviemakers can boost an impressive return on investment is by winning recognition from experts, especially given by bodies as highly-recognized as the Academy Awards, the Oscars.

The question that most people wonder about is this: what are the financial benefits of winning big especially from award-giving bodies like the Academy? Most importantly, what does it mean for film producers, financially, to nab this highly-sought acknowledgment?

For starters, Oscar winners don’t get cash prizes. Instead, they receive a swag bag worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. While these may seem less grand, the gold rush from being recognized by the Academy comes after this milestone.

For instance, the earning potential even for movie producers of small-budget films doubles after the awards night. Movie houses and cinemas across the world will take advantage of their newly won popularity by running and re-screening the winning films to sell more tickets – and this means millions of dollars from additional gross ticket sales.  The gold mine that is the box office will be followed by increased DVD sales, international television streaming franchises, and media franchising demand not just in their home countries but from around the globe.

Everything that comes after an Oscar victory can easily be translated to an expected growth in demand from actors and filmmakers when choosing where to take their next masterpieces.

For instance, when the company, Open Road Film, won their first Best Picture for “Spotlight” in the 2016 Oscars, the bragging rights of winning big and being recognized by the Academy have boosted the film producer and company’s brand image. Similarly, in 2009 Academy Awards, sleeper hit “Slumdog Millionaire” went from earning $44.7 million in domestic box office before Oscar nominations to bringing home additional $100 million (approximately) after its Best Picture win. In this year’s edition of the awards show, the Guillermo del Toro-directed sci-fi film “The Shape of Water” won the top accolade. As experts are predicting, it may well pull off dramatic box office growth over the next few days or even weeks following the victory.

Transportation industry: Big changes we will see in the future

Image source: CNBC.com

With the technology that the world has now, it’s not hard to imagine a future where anything is possible. This idea is true for most industries out there, especially when it comes to the transportation sector. Here are the big innovations that you should expect in the coming years and how it will transform the transportation industry as you know it.

Self-driving vehicles

As early as 2016, the world has already caught a glimpse of the future in the form of Tesla’s autonomous cars. In the future, day-to-day vehicles will be driving autonomously, that means, without human intervention.

While there are already car makers that are starting to take the first steps like Mercedes and BMW, by 2020, over 10 million self-driving vehicles are expected to cruise major highways not only in the U.S. but around the world.

Drone air taxi

You’ve read that right. Recent collaboration efforts led by Volocopter tested the possibility of an aviation-type taxi service that will hopefully introduce the concept of unmanned flying vehicles in the future’s commuting and transportation system.

Aside from removing the worries of heavy traffic and other on-road obstacles especially in megacities, it’s a faster and more effective means of taking passengers from one place to another.

Unmanned cargo transport

It’s not only land transportation that is expected to get an upgrade in the future – even cargo ships will not need human crew onboard, making it cheaper and providing more room for cargo.  Through a land-based control hub, multiple ships can be remotely controlled wherever they are in the world. The vision is expected to go beyond transporting goods as it’s also expected to be applied in commercial shipping.