Jeff Benjamin

Investment Insights: The Blogblog

Jeff Benjamin breaks down the game for advisers and clients.

Apr 2, 2014

Bank ETFs ride the choppy waves of Yellen-speak

By Jeff Benjamin

Bank ETFs are feeling the wrath of everything Janet Yellen says, which proves the new Fed chairman is still getting her sea legs when it comes to public statements. From dove to hawk and back againMoney managers and other smart people are still waiting for Treasury yields to start spiking. So far this year, they've been on the wrong side of that bet. 10-year Treasury yield down 0.89% this yearYield-seeking investors are starting to find some love from intermediate-term bond funds. Keeping an eye on the Treasury marketWith earnings season kicking off next week, there are a handful of stocks showing some early potential. Don't ignore the impact of Friday's jobs reportAs the price of gold lingers near its seven-week low, even some hard-core gold bugs are starting to rethink their commitment to the precious metal. More bearish today than a week ago... Read full post

Apr 1, 2014

When women-run retirement funds beat the boys

By Jeff Benjamin

There aren't a lot of women-run retirement funds, but based on the average track records, maybe there should be a lot more. Gaining 118% when the S&P was contracting from 2000 to 2005Today's big economic data points to keep an eye on: Light truck sales, manufacturing, and construction spending. Spoiler alert, if the numbers are weak, expect winter weather to get the blame. Consensus estimates are all positive ahead of the morning reportsThe Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority learns the hard way that hedge funds can go bankrupt, too. Fletcher International Ltd. accused of fraudThe FBI has been keeping close tabs on high-frequency traders for more than a year. When computer algorithms translate to wire fraudApril Fool's Day is the one day of the year you can make a mistake and call it a prank. Here are some of the things you should be watching out for today. Nerf nukes, edible pizza boxes, and tea-powered cars... Read full post

Mar 31, 2014

Investors adopt a defensive stance to wrap up 1Q

By Jeff Benjamin

At some point during the first quarter of 2014 investors got defensive, which is placing additional emphasis on the upcoming monthly jobs report. Snuffing the enthusiasm carried over from 2013Looking ahead to Friday's jobs report, Mohamed El-Erian boils it down to three important points to ponder. Stuck in low-level equilibriumPesky scribe Michael Lewis takes on high-frequency traders with the shocking revelation that Wall Street is rigged. Shocking! Winners and losers separated by millisecondsThree dozen delays, revisions and postponements later, what's left of Obamacare still presents a few investment opportunities. Sell medical device stocks, buy healthcare plans and new technologyFed Chair Janet Yellen, who rocked the markets during her initial press conference, will speak again this morning in Chicago and one has to assume the FOMC doves are hoping she sticks to the script this time. Stock futures climb ahead of the speech... Read full post

Mar 28, 2014

When the White House starts giving investment advice, we're all in trouble

By Jeff Benjamin

When the White House starts dishing out advice about investing in the global equity markets, apparently short-sellers don't listen. And why should they?On March 18, press secretary Jay Carney said that the only investments worth making in Russian equities are wagers that the market will decline. Anyone paying attention wisely wasn't really paying attention. The Russian equity market, as measured by the Market Vectors Russia ETF (RSX), the largest U.S. exchange traded fund tracking the Russian market, was down 8.7% since the start of the Crimean crisis in late February but since Mr. Carney's vague and somewhat confusing statement, it's up 2.4%.In fact, some are even calling the “blood on the streets” of Russia's stock market a buying opportunity.The Market Vectors Russia Small-Cap ETF (RSXJ) has fallen by 15.7% since Russia started its advance on Crimea, but has gained back 1.7% since Mr. Carney said investors should avoid... Read full post

Mar 28, 2014

When BRICs go bust, investors head toward frontier markets

By Jeff Benjamin

Where do investors go when emerging economies stop emerging at an acceptable clip? Let's dart off to the frontier markets for some real adventure. When BRICs go bustReal and measurable differences between women and men, from a financial advisory point of view. How the genders prefer to work with financial advisersIn the slow, steady drip of sanctions against Russia, the latest round gets a vote is the U.S. House of Representatives before lunch today. Throwing a bone to UkraineMeanwhile, Moscow looks east toward Asia for a little economic love. Imagining a world where both Russia and the U.S. are dependent on China. Awkward. Russia needs a trade cushionInvestors scored big in class-action lawsuits last year as volume spikes 57%.67 lawsuits and $4.8 billionWhether you're traveling for business or pleasure, here are real tips that will help you save some money. Alternating browsers when searching for flights... Read full post

Mar 27, 2014

Obama administration's call for boycotting Russian stocks falls flat

By Jeff Benjamin

No offense, Mr. President, but short-sellers are not taking your advice on Russian stocks. In fact, it seems the market is doing the opposite of what the Obama administration has suggested with regard to Russian investments. So much for White House influenceFed's Bullard reminds the markets that bubble risk doesn't go away just because the Fed becomes less accommodative. In other words, sleep with one eye open. Unconventional policiesWhere some see a bubble in biotech, Morgan Stanley gets ready to double down. Up 200% since 2011Box Inc. plans to go public in the latest sign of the cloud computing frenzy. Did somebody say bubble? What could go wrong?Activist shareholder Wintergreen Advisers is looking for help from Warren Buffett to challenge the sweet rewards Coke is serving to management. Coke management gets 14.2% of share capital, worth $24 billionIndex investing might be boring, but you will recognize the beauty of the strategy... Read full post

Mar 26, 2014

PE giant Carlyle Group is eyeing the retail investor market and liquid alts

By Jeff Benjamin

In the latest sign of the times, renowned private-equity firm The Carlyle Group is looking to buy a traditional asset manager as an expansion strategy. Everyone wants a piece of the white-hot liquid- alternatives market. The pursuit of more predictable income streamsLiquid alts bonus: My take on how the market is being flooded with productHas the extended quantitative-easing program exaggerated the risk of extreme inflation? Perhaps we would have been better off just dealing with the economic slump the old-fashioned way. The QE trapThe party might be ending for small-cap stocks, as valuations are reflecting “too much good news.” Historically, this is when the category starts to fall behind its large-cap brethren. Profit estimates are fallingIt's not too early to start getting a little defensive with your portfolio, according to Morningstar Inc. Be grateful that you've recovered from January. And don't get greedy. The time... Read full post

Mar 25, 2014

As liquid-alt mutual funds proliferate, some question their value

By Jeff Benjamin

When the news broke this month that $24 billion hedge fund firm Grosvenor Capital Management was breaking out of its otherwise secretive shell with plans to launch a registered alternative strategy mutual fund, it was generally interpreted as just the latest evidence of a continuing trend.Grosvenor is simply following the likes of Arden Asset Management, The Blackstone Group, and K2 Advisors by migrating downstream toward an expanding and increasingly curious investor base, which includes financial advisers.Five years ago, such a move by a hedge fund shop like Grosvenor might have triggered several enthusiastic hours or even days of financial news analysis.Fifteen years ago, a move by such an off-limits hedge fund shop was virtually unheard of because it would represent a violation of that invisible but well-understood wall separating hedge fund investors from the great unwashed, otherwise known as mutual fund investors.But, even... Read full post

Mar 25, 2014

Russia and the energy-stock short-sale question

By Jeff Benjamin

Regarding Russia, is it time to start shorting oil and gas stocks? Keep in mind, we're talking about an economy built precariously on exporting massive amounts of raw materials to foreign buyers. It's complicatedHere's what could happen to gold if Janet Yellen's interest rate threat doesn't work. Or, what happens when quantitative easing no longer matters. Unintended consequencesThe latest concerns surrounding the much-celebrated Candy Crush IPO involve the company's fuzzy path to growth. Somehow it seems that should have been one of the original concerns. Is King Digital a one-app pony?If you want to retire with a million bucks it would have been good to start saving a long time ago. But if that wasn't the case, here's breakdown of how to get there the hard way. If you're 20, it takes just $365 a month; more if you're olderThe latest evidence of youth (and tax dollars) being wasted on the young. Filers over 45 pay 74% of federal... Read full post

Mar 24, 2014

Until the economy springs forward, just keep blaming the weather

By Jeff Benjamin

Investors are still waiting for any sign that the economy might be springing ahead. In the meantime, we will just keep blaming the weather and everything will be fine. Flurry of economic data on the wayAfter decades of promoting homeownership as the surest path to prosperity, your elected officials are now trying to ditch the mortgage interest deduction. Your tax dollars at work. If all else fails, stoke the class warfare debateHigh-speed traders might be unintentionally providing some benefit to ordinary investors by helping to enforce and speed up the synchronization process. Should Congress limit mortgage deduction?If you can take advantage of a single company splitting its stock price, why not build an entire portfolio on stock splits? It's not a completely crazy notion. Increased investor access and P/E momentumHow big is that retirement nest egg, and how big should it be? Take a gander at some very rudimentary but helpful... Read full post

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