Jeff Benjamin

Investment Insights: The Blogblog

Jeff Benjamin breaks down the game for advisers and clients.

Feb 5, 2016

These days, running for president means talking tough about Wall Street reform

By Jeff Benjamin

Presidential candidates jockey for the toughest stance on Wall Street reform. Pandering aside, the real question is whether the proposals are even necessary. Forget negative sovereign bond yields, the next big concern is negative yields for corporate bonds. Some European corporates could go negative. Here's why it could happen in the U.S. Love him or hate him, Bernie Madoff took down some big names. From Elliot Spitzer to Zsa Zsa Gabor. Let's face it, unless you live in North Carolina or Colorado, the best part of the Super Bowl is the ads. This year, expect a light-hearted theme. What's not to like about that? Last year some brands went too serious. ... Read full post

Feb 4, 2016

Wall Street money flows toward Marco Rubio, Hillary Clinton

By Jeff Benjamin

Wall Street money is showing big support for Marco Rubio and Hillary Clinton. Time will tell if that's a blessing or a curse. The field is thinning. The $1 billion hedge fund that cited market liquidity among the reasons for shutting its doors has sparked some concerns across the market. The lack of liquidity in the credit markets. Calling for a 50% spike in oil prices by year end. But will even that be enough to save the U.S. energy complex? Keeping your fingers crossed for supply and demand fundamentals. In case you've been charging up your drone for bird's-eye view of the Super Bowl this Sunday, save your batteries, because the FAA is having none of it. Drone crashes in prominent spaces are becoming increasingly common. ... Read full post

Feb 3, 2016

Putting ETF liquidity concerns in perspective

By Jeff Benjamin

Debunking the ETF illliquidity concerns positions ETFs as victims, not the cause of the problem. The lessons that were learned from the Aug. 24 flash crash. The pivotal age for retirement is 70, because everything changes when you start tapping into your tax-deferred retirement accounts. It's all about the tax code, according to Ed Slott. There is an effort underway to upend high-frequency trading. Shining light on a dark game. For some states, the recession has already started. The single-state economic contractions, and a few states going sideways. ... Read full post

Feb 2, 2016

SEC wraps up case against 'no-show' adviser Dawn J. Bennett

By Jeff Benjamin

Dawn Bennett, citing Constitutional issues, is fighting SEC charges against her firm but opting to not defend herself, or even show up for the enforcement proceeding. “This is the biggest mistake that you can make.” In September, the SEC charged the founder of Bennett Group Financial with inflating her assets under management by as much as five times the actual amount and exaggerating investment returns. Raymond James' Jeffrey Saut says the stock market was flushed out last week and that the “selling stampede” is over. “I think it ended last Thursday.” The Fed is starting to admit its monetary policy is becoming more art than science. “It's working more than I can say I expected in 2012.” Another bullish call for oil prices from T. Boone Pickens. If he's wrong about prices spiking this time, it will be the second year in a row. Gauging the direction of oil prices is hard even for an... Read full post

Feb 1, 2016

Putting negative interest rates in perspective

By Jeff Benjamin

Even if they have to resort to negative interest rates, central banks never really run out of ammo. Whatever it takes. Venture capital investing has grown up and well beyond its origins as a Silicon Valley tech play. It's everywhere you want to be. Boiling down an investor's financial philosophy into the most basic terms can be a great starting point, but it's only a starting point. Things get more complex from there. Fitting it all on an index card. Bernie Sanders' list of corporate-tax targets keeps growing. And his supporters are still wondering why the presidential candidate isn't getting any support beyond idealistic 20- and 30-somethings. Bernie's so-called “tax avoiders.” ... Read full post

Jan 29, 2016

Short sellers are licking their chops in this market

By Jeff Benjamin

Short sellers are staking their claims on the downside of the stock market. Short interest in the S&P 1500 has reached its highest level in three years. “The basket of the most heavily shorted stocks is down 38% since the start of 2014.” Time to brace for the wave of bankruptcies that is coming in the wake of cheap oil. BlackRock's Larry Fink estimates that up to 400 companies could go belly-up. The chief executive of tobacco giant Altria Group says we don't need to worry about the economy being in a recession because consumers are still buying cigarettes. Um, don't most smokers continue buying cigarettes regardless of the economic cycle, because they're addicted to them? The mini-renaissance in the cigarette industry. Talk about a trigger warning. The Communist Manifesto, by Karl Marx, ranks among the top texts assigned by U.S. college professors. As an economist, Marx ranks just ahead of Paul Krugman. ... Read full post

Jan 28, 2016

Charles Schwab's Liz Ann Sonders sticks to her bullish tone

By Jeff Benjamin

Schwab's Liz Ann Sonders can always find a reason to be bullish. The economy is not as bad as many believe. The Fed dials back the rhetoric about four rate hikes this year. No worries. Billionaire hedge funder Bill Ackman took it on the chin in 2015 with a 20.5% drop, and his fund is already down 14% this year. There's some skill and there's some luck. Doing the math on Hillary's tax plan. It ain't pretty. One plus two equals a shrinking economy. ... Read full post

Jan 27, 2016

ETF launches test the limits of creativity and logic

By Jeff Benjamin

If you're the type of person who constantly ponders new ways to invest in just about anything, you might have a promising future in the world of exchange-traded funds.But you'd better hurry, because many of the more creative ideas are already on the market.For example, you can tap into the growth of the cyber-security industry with PureFunds ISE Cyber Security ETF (HACK), or make a concentrated bet on the airline industry with U.S. Global Jets ETF (JETS).Note the clever ticker symbols — that's part of the fun.A few weeks ago we saw the launch of Market Vectors Generic Drugs ETF (GNRX), but if that's too general for you, there's also Loncar Cancer Immunotherapy ETF (CNCR), which tracks an index of companies dedicated to fighting cancer.If you want to get a little more creative, there are strategies like Reality Shares DIVS ETF (DIVY), which buys swaps to make a bullish bet on the direction of corporate dividends.And, just because... Read full post

Jan 27, 2016

We might all be better off if more women were managing money

By Jeff Benjamin

If the data is correct, we would all benefit if more women were managing money. The male-dominated province of so-called Masters of the Universe. Newsflash: Rising oil prices are good for stocks, unless they're not. Got it? The stock-oil correlation is a recent phenomenon. Mark Yusko is following his $30-oil prediction from last year with more bad news. If you're waiting for a spike in oil prices, don't hold your breath. About that whole no-cell-phones-in-certain-restaurants thing, it's over. Pictures of food are good for business. ... Read full post

Jan 26, 2016

Goldman, JPMorgan go Jekyll and Hyde on state of the markets

By Jeff Benjamin

Near simultaneous reports by JPMorgan and Goldman Sachs illustrate how confused Wall Street is by the current market environment. The dead cat bounce and the buying opportunity. China has been trying to fuel its private economy by refining oil. That is a problem for everybody. This will not help curtail the free fall in oil prices. An unlikely source turns up the heat on Hillary Clinton's whopping Wall Street speaking fees. HuffPo calls it a big deal. Is the Oscars ceremony ready to confront gender disparity? Women would have to boycott the awards show. “It's a bigger issue than money.” ... Read full post

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