Jeff Benjamin

Investment Insights: The Blogblog

Jeff Benjamin breaks down the game for advisers and clients.

Feb 20, 2015

Did Merrill Lynch's latest high-profile recruiting coup break the bank?

By Jeff Benjamin

Merrill Lynch's record signing bonus to recruit a veteran team from rival Morgan Stanley might have pushed the limits of what's actually in the bank. A hiring bonus equal to 400% of the team's yearly revenue European stocks blow right past U.S. stocks in a move that nobody saw coming. The momentum of 2014 and the so-called strength of the U.S. economy was supposed to lead the way. Loving European stocks, but hating the euro Is it time to look past oil for some fresh opportunities in gold? The fundamentals all point to higher gold prices in coming years Protecting your nest egg from rising prescription costs. Step one: Talk to your doctor ... Read full post

Feb 19, 2015

The Fed's first interest rate hike hits another speed bump

By Jeff Benjamin

The Fed continues to hem and haw on raising interest rates. The debate this time centers on the risk of harming the recovery versus the risk of high inflation. Differing opinions about the economic conditions that would be appropriate for the first rate hike Options-based funds do what they're supposed to do by outperforming with less volatility. Take that, naysayers. There are a lot of mutual funds employing the strategy Hedge funder Mark Yusko says 2015 is packed with market surprises. The Fed won't be raising rates this year The future of oil prices are more of a mystery than ever, but that doesn't mean you can't make forecasts. The price could drop to $10 a barrel or soar to $200 ... Read full post

Feb 18, 2015

The bottom for oil prices isn't even in sight yet

By Jeff Benjamin

A case is being made for why the forces of supply and demand could push the price of a barrel of oil to only a little more than double the price of a gallon of gas a few years ago. With the demand for OPEC's oil at a 14-year low, the bottom for prices isn't even in sight yet Outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder is planning a parting shot at Wall Street. He has dispatched Justice Department lawyers to flesh out any individuals that can be prosecuted for any actions leading up to the financial crisis. Your tax dollars at work. The scope even includes individuals working at firms that have already settled with the Justice Dept. Tuesday's SEC filings paint a vivid picture of where hedge fund managers zigged and zagged, sometimes at the wrong time. Selling Apple early, and holding GM too long It probably feels really good to invest in areas that are good for the planet and its inhabitants. But if you just want to make sure you have enough ... Read full post

Feb 17, 2015

Longer life expectancies are killing pension funds

By Jeff Benjamin

Pension fund strategies never factored in that people would live as long as they're living. It is a real and growing problem. Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be pension fund managers Stories of investors being ripped off by advisers and money managers have become way too common, but you've got to at least give this guy points for creativity. Nothing says guilt like creating a fictional employee to report that you have died. Conning investors in order to bankroll a lavish lifestyle Big sigh of relief. Congress is forming a committee to create a task force to try and determine whether it should launch an investigation into the recent spate of fraudulent tax filings. We're from the government, and here to help you There's nothing like tax season for a reason to take a closer look at the best and worst uses for individual retirement accounts. 20 IRA mistakes to avoid ... Read full post

Feb 13, 2015

Consumers are saving at the gas pump but not spending at the mall

By Jeff Benjamin

With gasoline at around $2 a gallon, retail sales are not supposed to slump. The fact that they are slumping suggests something else is happening to all that extra money. Maybe people are saving up to pay their taxes. Wages are still flat after all these years It's too soon to even consider raising interest rates, according to former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers. A little bit of inflation would be nice. 'There's no reason to tighten until we see the whites of inflation's eyes' Is feeding a room full of strangers a smart way to build your client base? You might be surprised. People want to feel good about their financial adviser, and who doesn't like to be fed? Much is being made of the new 'elite, invite-only credit cards' for really rich people. What's the big deal? I get credit card invites in the mail several times a week. Sometimes the invites are even addressed to my dog. The 'plunk' factor that comes with unlimited spending ... Read full post

Feb 12, 2015

In target date funds, performance starts to trump risk management as assets balloon

By Jeff Benjamin

The more than $700 billion in assets under management in target date mutual funds is proof of the 21-year success story of the vehicles, which provide investors with diversified portfolios set to individual retirement dates.But success breeds competition, and as the market has grown to 54 separate target-date fund series (from 51 with $600 billion in assets a year ago) that cater to retirement dates as far out as 2050, it's only natural that performance would start to overshadow risk management.For younger investors, risk is less of an issue. But some target date fund managers are still dangerously stepping on the gas for those in or nearing retirement.It might seem counterintuitive, especially considering that the average 401(k) account has just $91,000, but investors shouldn't be trying to make up for savings shortfalls by getting more aggressive as they get closer to retirement.In a lot of target date strategies, that is essentially ... Read full post

Feb 12, 2015

Energy-sector stocks are feeling no love from Wall Street

By Jeff Benjamin

Energy-sector stocks are finding almost no love from Wall Street. The shorts are piled up like a Fourth of July sale at the Gap. Highest level of short interest in the sector since 2008 Just as quickly as Apple Inc.'s market value tops $700 billion, it is worth pondering about the company reaching the trillion-dollar mark. Will it take the iPhone 7, 8, or 9S to get there? 'It's still a big jump from here' Then, there is Carl Icahn's math. He thinks Apple is already worth $1.3 trillion. Even after making $1.3B on AAPL in three months, Icahn wants more from his investment Is it even worth the risks anymore to file taxes online? Imagine somebody filing your taxes before you do, and then getting your refund ... Read full post

Feb 11, 2015

Taxes might not be the main reason U.S. companies are relocating overseas

By Jeff Benjamin

Reuters says U.S. companies might not be fleeing to other countries for lower tax rates. Maybe they're relocating to take advantage of the parking and healthcare benefits. No major country has a higher corporate tax rate than the United States Lest we forget that individuals can also leave the country to dodge taxes, here are some of the favorite haunts. More than 3,000 people gave up their U.S. citizenship last year Financial firms are expected to increase spending on cyber security by 13%. Part of the blame for the increased risk goes to the increased use of mobile devices. Many mobile devices are not secure Saving money is hard. Here are four reasons to start now. Dream big and retire big ... Read full post

Feb 10, 2015

Citigroup says oil is going from cheap to dirt cheap

By Jeff Benjamin

Could $20 oil really happen, or is Citigroup just pushing worst-case scenarios to the limit? Claiming it is not possible to call a price floor and then calling one, doesn't exactly sound like confidence. 'It's impossible to call a bottom point' Morningstar's alternatives fund manager of the year gained a little more than a third of the S&P 500 last year, which might have some investors wondering if it's even worth it. Boston Partners Long/Short Equity Fund (BPLSX) Cheap oil lays a wet blanket on another oil and gas producer. SandyRidge is shutting down 75% of its rigs Making the case for active management over passive strategies. The trend is not your friend, my friend. Riding the sideways market ... Read full post

Feb 9, 2015

Warren Buffett's financial results start to raise red flags

By Jeff Benjamin

Financial analysts are starting to cry foul over Warren Buffett's financial results. The Oracle of Omaha says he liked it better when his annual letter to shareholders was all the information anyone needed. Buffett rejects criticism of Berkshire Hathaway The Family Dollar saga highlights the role of luck when it comes to investing. Most of Family Dollar's woes were outside the control of the company's management Small-cap stock valuations contradict the cheery jobs data. When stacked against one another, you gotta go with small-cap valuations and believe that the recovery doesn't add up. High valuations are cutting in to returns of Russell 2000 companies Alan Greenspan says Greece has burned all its bridges, and calls the country's exit from the euro, 'just a matter of time.' At this point, the euro doesn't help Greece, and Greece doesn't help the euro zone ... Read full post

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