Mull These Over On Weekend – March 21, 2015

Here are some reading materials for your weekend information gathering. As usual, some are market related, some concern the geo-politics and some are for fun. Some are short, some long. Some are agreeable and some not but all are informative.Ghana

  1. 9 ETFs That Screen for Dividend Growth – So how should you choose an ETF? Here are returns, expense ratios and other data for the available domestic dividend growth ETFs — including three new ETFs based on new indexes from Morningstar, Russell, and S&P Dow Jones. Products are sorted by the number of years of higher payments required, in ascending order; data is from Morningstar and fund websites as of Feb. 27. Three- and five- year returns are annualized.
  2. Currency politics, debt politics – Since 2010, the currency-debt connection has taken several twists and turns. As monetary policy in the G-7 headed toward the zero interest rate lower bound, investors in search of yield poured trillions of dollars into the emerging markets. The search for yield led investors to put money even into the local-currency debt of emerging-market governments. Governments from Peru to Thailand issued debt in their own currencies, in national markets, only to see most of it snapped up by foreigners hungry for the high yields they found there. This was not without problems: as capital poured into Brazil and the real appreciated, the Brazilian government complained that the U.S. was sparking a “currency war” that was impeding the ability of Brazilian firms to compete internationally.
  3. Borio, Erdem, Filardo and Hofmann on the Costs of Deflation – Really, the concern at the moment is not a sharp large deflation, such as occurred in the 1930s and is felt by many to epitomize the demand or debt deflation story. Rather, the concern is over a moderate but persistent deflation, such as Japan has experienced. (One in which each individual is likely to never experience a wage decline, more here.)
  4. No Fooling: Deadline for First IRA Withdrawal Is Almost Here – If you turned age 70½ at any point in 2014, you must take—by April 1 of this year—your first “required minimum distribution” from your retirement accounts,  generally those with tax-deferred contributions. These include, among others, individual retirement accounts, 401(k)s, 403(b)s and 457(b)s.
  5. The Single Best (And Easiest) Way to Boost Your Investment Returns – For example, moving from a portfolio of funds whose expense ratios average, say, 1% a year to a portfolio of index funds or ETFs with average expenses of 0.25% can gain you an extra $40,000 or so over the course of 20 years on an initial investment of $100,000, assuming a 6% annual return before expenses. Could you do even better? Sure. These days you can find some ETFs that charge as little as 0.04%.
  6. Want to be retirement ready? Lower your expectations – Most predictions aren’t in consumers’ favor. In a recent Legg Mason study, only 40 percent of the 458 investors surveyed said they are “very confident” in their ability to retire—perhaps in part because they think they’ll need to have at least $2.5 million saved, versus the often-talked-about $1 million. Another recent survey, from TIAA_CREF, found that 46 percent of Americans are worried about running out of money in retirement.
  7. Stocks are likely to struggle during March Madness – The authors measured what happens to a given country’s stock market immediately following losses of its national teams in international competition. They focused primarily on soccer matches in the World Cup, but they also studied cricket, rugby and basketball. They found that, if a country’s team lost, its stock market the next day suffered a significant diminution in return.
  8. Oil futures score first weekly gain in over a month – “Ever since the Fed announcement, crude has been caught up specifically with the U.S. dollar move and the wild swings we are seeing there,” said Tariq Zahir, managing member at Tyche Capital Advisors.
  9. 6 investing lessons from the Federal Reserve – Someone who is not data-dependent considers rebalancing — where holdings are adjusted to put the portfolio back onto its target asset allocation — a regular chore and does it annually, regardless of market conditions. A data-dependent investor would say the move isn’t necessary until the portfolio is 5% or more off of its targets and profit-taking seems prudent.
  10. Deeds, not Words? Or, Say Less and Mean More – Looking at the data, the FOMC certainly isn’t hawkish at present. That is consistent with the change in language in the statement, which left timing for any future hikes in the Fed Funds rate vague, and subject to interpretation. This explains the fall in the US Dollar, and the rise in the prices of stocks, long bonds, and commodities. The markets viewed it all as continued monetary lenience, and given the composition of voting members on the FOMC, that should come as no surprise at all.
  11. Illiquidity and Bubbles in Private Share Markets: Testing Mark Cuban’s thesis! – Cuban makes four assertions: (1) There is a tech bubble; (2) A large portion of the tech bubble is in the private share market which is less liquid than the public markets; (3) The bubble will be larger and burst more violently because of the absence of liquidity; and (4) This bubble is worse than the dot-com bubble, though it not clear on what dimension and from whose perspective. In his trademark fashion, Cuban ends his article with a provocative questions,  “If stock in a company is worth what somebody will pay for it, what is the stock of a company worth when there is no place to sell it ?” I like Mark Cuban but I think that he is wrong on all four counts.
  12. 26 charts and maps that show the world is getting much, much better – So it’s natural for things like Russia’s incursion into Ukraine or the rise of ISIS or the Ebola outbreak to weigh on us more than, say, the fact that extreme poverty has fallen by half since 1990, or that life expectancy is increasing, especially in poor countries. But it’s worth paying some attention to the latter factors. The world is getting much, much better on a whole variety of dimensions. Here are just a few.
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