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The economy functions largely as an autonomous entity dependent on things like consumer spending, manufacturing, interest rates and a slew of other factors. Usually, it's not too difficult to determine the impact a particular market or event has on the markets, but there's one risk that tends to be enigmatic to investors – political. One might think that politics plays a big role in how the economy operates. As such, elections are carefully considered by investors with different segments of the economy expected to be impacted by new policies and changes. And while there's no argument that politicians can enact new tax laws and other reforms that impact businesses and consumers alike, the actual effect is harder to pinpoint. Politics in a portfolio Proper portfolio management includes accounting for risk. Some risks, like interest rates, foreign exchange rates and equity prices can be effectively prepared for and hedged against. Political risk though is harder to plan for. Elections, despite what the pundits might tell you, are hard to predict. Democrats and Republicans trade positions in Congress and the White House on… Read more

There's a lot of data investor pour over in order to come up with a model for economic growth. Things like employment, manufacturing orders and inflation are some of the most critical things investors look at, but it's often the little details that tell the true story. Since the financial crisis of 2008, the housing market has been a black spot in investors minds. Many remember the disastrous results of the sub-prime mortgage industry and the slow recovery of housing prices. As such, the industry has been largely ignored. But recent data shows that housing isn't the black hole investors might believe that it is. Sales are improving – especially in the luxury market. That's a key indicator because it means consumers are feeling more optimistic about the economy. The Housing Gauge Luxury homes are in high demand right now. The number of homes priced at $1 million or more fell by around 18 percent for the third quarter compared to the same time period last year. Supply for high-end real estate is expected to continue dropping as time progresses,… Read more

Investors are always looking for the next great product that can help them gain an edge on the market. From the dissatisfaction of the performance and fees of mutual funds, came the advent of ETFs. But investors still wanted a total investment vehicle that could be used in retirement accounts that didn't need yearly adjustments or modifications. They wanted something that could be invested in and never touched again. In response, the investment industry came up with the target-date retirement fund. A fund that automatically sets up an allocation between stocks and bonds and slowly changes that allocation over time to become more conservative. To some investors, it's a one-stop-shopping option for retirement, making it easier to participate in programs like a 401k or IRA, but the drawbacks of such a plan might not be worth the ease of investing. Automation in your investments may not be all it's cracked up to be. It's seems like a good idea to create an all-in-one retirement fund that any investor can participate in and not have to think about until they actually retire. But… Read more

Investors are divided by how they analyze stocks. On one side, chartists use technical data, like chart patterns, momentum, volume and other data points in order to make predictions about future price movements. On the other side are fundamentalists, who disregard charts and graphs and focus more on financial and economic data along with things like management and growth prospects. To the fundamentalist, trying to predict price based on past patterns and charts is akin to fortune tellers who base their analysis on the position of the stars. Instead, they look to more solid evidence that can be found in financial statements and economic reports. But trusting the numbers can also be misleading – numbers don't always the tell the whole story. Deceptive figures in stock analysis One would be forgiven if they thought numbers were infallible. After all, no one would argue that one plus one doesn’t equal two. But in financial statement analysis, investors often find that numbers don't always always reveal the whole story. Accounting rules make for interesting analytical pieces when items like rent are considered.… Read more

The markets are at record high values right now, while volatility has seemingly disappeared. All the good news has been priced into stocks, while bad news doesn't appear to be reflected in most industries. While the third quarter of earnings statements is well under way, all eyes are already focused on what year-end results will be. Earnings is the primary driver of stock prices. Earnings are then combined with a multiple placed on stocks relative to risk, helping create a stock price. This relationship creates one of the most common ratios investors use to value stocks – the price-to-earnings ratio, or P/E. But with investors seemingly oblivious to risk, earnings results are more critical than ever to keep the bull market alive. Illusory gains or real growth? If investors ignore the risks facing the market, earnings become the only real foundation to support higher stock prices. As long as earnings come in as expected, or better yet, higher than expected, then the price of the stock will stay the same, or go down relative to its intrinsic value as determined… Read more