Jeff Benjamin

Investment Insights: The Blogblog

Jeff Benjamin breaks down the game for advisers and clients.

7:43 am EST

As Ukraine heats up, Obama “tees up” more sanctions, and the market turns a blind eye

By Jeff Benjamin

Things are heating up in Ukraine as the locals have started pushing back on Russian forces, reportedly killing a handful of pro-Russian gunmen overnight. For his part, President Obama took a break from his Asian tour to warn Russia that more sanctions are “teed up,” even as he acknowledged his limited influence. Obama's frank pessimismMeanwhile, financial pros train a cautious eye on how the turmoil in Ukraine will likely impact the financial markets. The markets are missing the seriousness of what's happening The U.S. housing market is being held down by the stagnant pace of new housing formation. In other words, if you want to help the economy, move out of your parents' basement and get married. Brace yourself for some sticker shock if you haven't bought a house latelyMedicare fraud runs up a $5 billion tab, exposing a system that is badly broken. Or, depending on your perspective, an extremely expensive taxi service for... Read full post

Apr 23, 2014

Barclays looks like the latest bank to back away from commodities trading

By Jeff Benjamin

Barclays may be cutting 7,500 jobs as it tries to improve returns in its securities unit. Call it the latest blow to Europe's fixed-income, currencies and commodities business. Under pressure at the U.K.'s second-largest bankMeanwhile, Goldman Sachs is ready to pick up the scraps in the commodity-trading business as big-bank competitors walk away. The business gets less competitive Income by any means necessary. When the going gets tough, some income investors get esoteric. Investment trusts, convertibles, and loansWall Street is riding high on the latest M&A buzz. A growing list of announced dealsWhen the IRS awards itself bonuses, the bar is set low. Apparently, a record of disciplinary actions and even owing back taxes won't prevent an IRS staffer from cashing in come bonus time. In 2012, 68,000 workers got bonuses totaling $86 million... Read full post

Apr 22, 2014

What stocks to buy, if you want to buy stocks

By Jeff Benjamin

Ready to get back into stocks but not sure where to start? Here are some ideas. 7 stocks to buy as Fed tapering shifts risksTalk about a change of heart. Netflix shares plunged In July 2011 when the video streaming company announced a price hike. Today, the stock is rallying on, yup, news of a price increase. Netfix plans price raise as streaming subscribers growEarnings are coming fast and furious. Here's one that's high on the hog, so to speak. Harley-Davidson posts higher-than-expected profitWe all know chief executives can boost their numbers with share buybacks but what happens when that music stops? IBM end to buyback splurge pressures CEO to boost revenueAnd don't forget what today is. 8 DIY projects inspired by Earth Day... Read full post

Apr 21, 2014

No longer able to blame winter weather, economists see real weakness in housing

By Jeff Benjamin

As the winter weather melts away, economists are starting to see another problem behind a slowing housing market. The short answer is lackluster demand. Early-spring sales season “decidedly tepid”U.S. markets will hit the decks running Monday as earnings season picks up where it left off before the Easter weekend. On the docket, Netflix and Kimberly-Clark are scheduled to report. Later this week the market will be looking for the Alibaba IPO. Meanwhile, Ukraine is still simmeringContrary to all the fairness noise coming out of the White House, the economic recovery has been setting the table for the rich to keep getting richer. More than 80% of the post-recession rise in household income has been concentrated in the top 20%. Unevenly distributed income gainsThe average stock is more expensive than it was at the dotcom bubble peak, according to Henry Blodget's math. The world according to HenryHedge funds continue to have... Read full post

Apr 18, 2014

Consumers left in the loan lurch as big banks still hold off

By Jeff Benjamin

As the big banks rolled out earnings reports over the past week it has become increasingly obvious that consumers are still not getting clean and clear access to credit. Corporate lending is up 7%Brinker Capital jumps on the liquid alts bandwagon in the latest sign of a real and fast-expanding category. Responding to requests from financial advisersSome stocks like higher interest rates more than others. Life is not fair and that might be a good thing for savvy investors. Companies will benefit disproportionatelyCommodities are once again acting as diversifiers and investors are taking notice. YTD inflows reverse 2013 outflowsRumors of ECB stimulus plans are driving European bonds higher and pushing yields to new lows. This looks like Mario Draghi's no-holds-barred effort to nudge the inflation rate above 0.5%. Pledging unlimited supportMerrill Lynch has trimmed its 2014 housing market forecast. The main culprit? You guessed it,... Read full post

Apr 17, 2014

Time to jump on the M&A bandwagon

By Jeff Benjamin

This week's announced $6.25 billion acquisition of Nuveen Investments Inc. by TIAA-CREF stands out as the latest evidence that the math continues to make sense for consolidation, and that M&A is alive and well. And the good news is, it's not too late to gain some exposure to the deal activity in a way that could also introduce some crucial portfolio diversification. “These kinds of announced deals are examples of two dynamics converging in the market and driving deal flow,” said Matt Porzio, vice president of strategy and product marketing at Intralinks Holdings Inc., which monitors due diligence research to help forecast future merger and acquisition activity. “First, we're talking about the need in financial services to buy growth and compete with larger and more diversified assets, and second, the necessary shedding of sideways [leveraged buyouts] in seven-to-10-year-old vintage private equity funds,” he... Read full post

Apr 17, 2014

Using digital potholes to slow the pace of high-frequency traders

By Jeff Benjamin

In the latest battle with high-frequency traders, some big banks are learning to fight technology with technology. Pausing trades at randomIf you don't know whether an ETF is physically replicated or synthetically replicated, it is probably not for you. Here's a good and painless primer. Know your exposureWhen it comes to advising clients, sometimes it's more about what not to do. No tinkering for tinkering sakeFinally, a simple six-step pyramid to financial success. Now my life is complete, all I have to do is find a way to follow the six steps. Hierarchy of needsIt is never too soon to claim a biotech sector recovery. All it took was a good day yesterday. Firmly in the blackA Russian marketing gimmick to promote turkey as an Easter meal is aimed at boosting “food security” for a country that imports a quarter of its meat supply. For most of Russia's 140 million citizens turkey is still an unfamiliar food. Tastes like... Read full post

Apr 16, 2014

Markets brave a presidential-cycle speed bump

By Jeff Benjamin

Something else for investors to fret about: We've entered the historically worst period of the presidential cycle for stocks, if you believe in such things. The rocky stretch leading up to midterm elections in a president's second termThe Nasdaq is oh-so-close to correction territory following the momentum rout. Falling off a March 5 highThe majority of money managers, globally, think the U.S. stock market is overvalued. Meanwhile, they have never been so bullish on the emerging markets, according to a BofA survey. Only 2% of money managers would be underweight the emerging marketsHaving your dividends and tech stock exposure, too. And it's all wrapped up nicely in one tidy ETF that includes the retro feel of a bunch of popular names from the 1990s. First Trust Nasdaq Technology Dividend Index Fund (TDIV)If investors better understood a few basics, the financial adviser's job would be so much easier. Only you can determine your risk... Read full post

Apr 15, 2014

Stocks search for direction on a data-rich day

By Jeff Benjamin

The equity market searches for direction this morning ahead of an event-filled trading day. Tuesday's outlook is muddied by Monday's broad move. Inflation data, big earnings, and more Fed chatterShooting down the upside of low interest rates. Ed Yardeni gets all mathematical and logical on us. Subpar economic growth with rising risks of deflationGM's cover-culture gets a boost of support from a hedge fund manager. It's too early to know if that will make matters better or worse for the automaker. J. Kyle Bass joins the political fightDoes Earth Day have any impact on environmentally-friendly companies? Any fool can rhyme like me, but only God can make a treeThe surging price of Pad Thai at Noodles & Co. The rising cost of adding shrimp to pastaReflection and hope in Boston. A somber anniversary. One million spectators expected for next week's Boston Marathon ... Read full post

Apr 14, 2014

Investors turn focus to first-quarter earnings

By Jeff Benjamin

In a week filled with important earnings reports and a nervous market, those earnings better not be weak. Minding the volatility indexWe can all rest easy now, because the SEC is planning a sweeping campaign against high-frequency trading. All it took was a book by Michael Lewis to get this thing started. SEC to investors: We got thisIt has not been easy lately for passive investors. When momentum stocks diveAA credit ratings are becoming the norm for U.S. companies as downgrades mount. Only three companies still have AAA ratingsNew love for emerging-markets ETFs. Investors pour $4.7 billion into the category in seven days. Speaking of BrazilSix companies with great balance sheets that are reporting earnings this week. ABT, INTC, OMC, SLB, SNDK, URIOne upside of the IRS mess; the odds of being audited this year are lower than they have been in years. Smaller budgets, fewer agents, but at least the service is still lousySwiss unions... Read full post

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