Jeff Benjamin

Investment Insights: The Blogblog

Jeff Benjamin breaks down the game for advisers and clients.

Apr 18, 2016

West Oak Capital takes another big bite of Charles Schwab's stock

By Jeff Benjamin

Hedge fund shop West Oak Capital added another $1.3 million worth of Charles Schwab Corp. stock, upping its total stake to more than 46,000 shares. Raising the price target for Schwab stock. Ted Cruz visits New York and decides to take on the Federal Reserve. The Fed is “playing games with money.” Investing in bonds has never been so accessible and so difficult at the same time. There are 99 places to trade bonds, but virtually no liquidity. The vanishing homeownership tax break is driving more people toward the world of renting. Challenging the validity of the mortgage interest deduction. ... Read full post

Apr 15, 2016

Steven Cohen gets back to managing money

By Jeff Benjamin

The dust around SAC Capital has apparently settled enough to allow Steven Cohen a new entry point into the asset management business. “To see him getting active again, that is what the deal was.” JPMorgan Chase's asset management arm is stepping deeper into the ETF space with an ownership stake in GlobalX Management Co. Following a similar move by Legg Mason. As employer healthcare benefits for retirees keep shrinking, more pressure will be placed on financial advisers to put together a better plan. The changes are coming. More encouraging news from the world of target-date funds. Use is up, fees are down. Another installment of your tax dollars at work. Pork barrel spending gone wild. Peer-reviewed breast cancer research, conducted by the Defense Department, appropriated $120 million. ... Read full post

Apr 14, 2016

Pimco's active BOND ETF being left in the dust

By Jeff Benjamin

Pimco's much-celebrated Total Return Active ETF (BOND) is being ignored by investors who are opting for better-positioned rival products. It wasn't supposed to be this way. The fund's first-quarter net withdrawals topped $37 million, while the bond ETF sector attracted $33 billion. Five out of eight big banks don't have acceptable “living wills.” And all eight of the “too-big-to-fail” banks earned low marks for their ability to demonstrate a clear path to an orderly failure under bankruptcy at no cost to taxpayers. The Fed and FDIC give thumbs down to Bank of America, Bank of New York Mellon, J.P. Morgan Chase, State Street, and Wells Fargo. A dividend-investing strategy that includes avoiding dividend stocks. Replacing the dividend with a value approach. President Obama comes up with a simple solution for those pesky student loans, let the taxpayers foot the bill. That's one way to make college free.... Read full post

Apr 13, 2016

DOJ's suit against activist investor could affect entire mutual fund industry

By Jeff Benjamin

The $16 trillion U.S. mutual fund industry should be biting its nails over the Department of Justice lawsuit against activist investor ValueAct. Restricting shareholders from addressing important issues with corporate executives. President Obama's war on tax inversions, is really a war on the middle class. Seems like he would realize that. The problem could easily be solved by just slashing the U.S. corporate tax rate. Did the flameout of SunEdison hurt solar energy funds? A whole new twist on the idea of 'feeling the burn.' In recognition of the start of another baseball season, let's celebrate a rare and somewhat odd technological upgrade to the age-old ball bat. Introducing the 'Axe Bat.' ... Read full post

Apr 12, 2016

We're just four years from ETFs overtaking mutual funds

By Jeff Benjamin

Meb Faber says ETFs will replace mutual funds, but before that they have to navigate their way onto retirement plan menus. Within four years, ETFs will have more assets than mutual funds. Goldman Sachs ponies up $5B to settle federal and state probes into the banks' mortgage-backed securities business leading up to the financial crisis. The bank acknowledged it had received information indicating certain loans that did not meet the standards it had described to investors. The devil is in the details of candidates' tax proposals. Highlighting the good and downplaying the bad. Is this the season for those unloved health care ETFs to finally shine? The outlook is for continued growth in the sector. The heartbreaking collapse of Jordan Spieth in the Masters on Sunday is probably not the reason shares of his primary sponsor, Under Armor, tanked on Monday. We're blaming that on a downbeat note from Morgan Stanley. The... Read full post

Apr 11, 2016

Modern retirement planning means staying aggressive

By Jeff Benjamin

Most financial planning overlooks a key element of modern retirement planning. Boomers don't want the retirement life their parents had; they want to keep growing. Five financial advisers share their thoughts on the DOL fiduciary rule. “What's telling to me is that the rule would not be implemented until 2018.” The streak continues for equity ETFs. Six straight weeks of net inflows. “ETF investors have fueled the bull market since the end of February.” How big banks try to look smaller in the eyes of regulators. A lot of people think banks should be smaller and less complex. ... Read full post

Apr 8, 2016

President Obama's SEC nominees are being held up by fellow Democrats

By Jeff Benjamin

Democrats are blocking President Obama's SEC nominees in a cat fight over the disclosure of political spending. Awkward. Fairly unusual opposition to Mr. Obama. Forcing the minimum wage up to $15 an hour sounds great in theory. In practice? Not so much. It's jobs versus trade barriers. Are you smarter than a professional football player? Test your knowledge of finance, as presented to NFL players. How many dollars are we going to spend each year? Identity thieves are getting more creative by the day, so here are some things you shouldn't be keeping in your wallet. Password cheat sheets are a no-no. ... Read full post

Apr 7, 2016

Seeing renewable energy through rose-colored glasses

By Jeff Benjamin

A blindingly bullish outlook for wind and solar energy will get pinched in a hurry when oil prices start to recover. Meanwhile, SunEdison shares are trading at 34 cents, which is a point worth pondering. Shaping the power markets. Goldman's case against gold. It's all about the likelihood of higher interest rates. Short it, sell it, just don't own it. Instead of griping about those wickedly devious corporate inversions, why not just fix the tax code? Start by rebooting the government. In a nod to the start of baseball season, let's take a look at some lip-smacking ballpark chow. From burgerizzas to veggie hotdogs. ... Read full post

Apr 6, 2016

Low energy prices taking a toll on MLPs

By Jeff Benjamin

Investors in master limited partnerships should be paying close attention to the restructuring attempts by Linn Energy MLP, because they could mark the start of an ugly precedent for the MLP space.As originally designed, master limited partnerships were afforded certain tax advantages through the Tax Reform Act of 1986 as a way to attract money into mostly energy-related infrastructure projects. Even though MLPs are essentially expansive infrastructure systems that transport commodities like oil and natural gas around the country, they have largely been associated with tax management for investment purposes.Those tax advantages are at risk of fading away, or at least of getting messier than they already are, if Linn Energy's parent company, LinnCo, goes through with a debt-restructuring plan that will offer investors shares of LinnCo in exchange for their shares in the MLP. For the MLP investors, the swap could count as a sale for tax... Read full post

Apr 6, 2016

Bernie Sanders struggles for details in his populist attacks on Wall Street

By Jeff Benjamin

Bernie Sanders gets tripped up in the details of his plan to take down Wall Street. Not exactly a plan, but some beliefs, and good intentions. The majority of investors made money in March, which is bad news for the 8% who lost money. The killer was too much cash. The big picture of negative interest rates could mean a lot less cash swirling throughout the world. The Central Banks' mandate. Office dress codes that give employees the flexibility to dress for their day at work still require lots of oversight. What happens when employees are allowed to wear jeans. ... Read full post

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