ETFs

How to Use Utilities Stocks to Pump Up Your Portfolio

There was a time when the words "widows and orphans" pretty much defined utilities stocks. As well-regulated monopolies whose products were in constant and increasing demand, they provided a steady stream of income with a level of safety adequate for even the most conservative portfolios.

Because of more competition, looser rate regulation, and slower growth, utility stocks aren't quite the safe haven they once were. But with interest rates at all-time lows and continuing economic turmoil, they still have something to offer most investors.

Of course, the public utilities field today is considerably less broad and diverse than when your grandmother went looking for her retirement stocks.

Following the dismantling of Ma Bell (the original AT&T), which began in 1974, regulated phone utilities gradually disappeared in all but a few rural areas, leading to today's highly competitive tangle of publicly traded telephone companies.

Similarly, most of the smaller public water companies have been snapped up by a few big players - like American Water Works Co. Inc. (NYSE: AWK) - who run them as state-regulated subsidiaries.

That makes energy companies the most viable options for utilities stocks. And recent numbers indicate a turnaround is brewing in that sector.

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Investing Strategies: How to Build a Global-Investing Portfolio Using ETFs

It wasn't all that long ago that global investing was an activity that was restricted to only the wealthiest U.S. investors. If you weren't one of America's ultra-rich, you weren't able to access foreign markets.

That began to change in the 1950s, with the advent of international and global mutual funds, and access further expanded over the next three decades with the introduction of single-country closed-end funds. Today, thanks to the recent explosion in exchange-traded funds (ETFs), investing in overseas stocks is now almost as easy as targeting a given market sector here at home.

In fact, although it has been a mere 17 years since the first ETF began trading in the United States (in 1993), the most recent count finds more than 290 international, regional and foreign-country-focused funds listed on the various U.S. exchanges - enough to entice any investor with even a modest yen for overseas portfolio exposure.

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Special Report: How to Buy Gold

As an analyst and editor who specializes in the natural-resources sector, I spend a lot of time writing about gold, gold mining, and gold investing. Those are popular - and even emotional - topics with investors, which means that the columns, essays and advisories I write tend to generate a lot of comments and questions.

I think that's great. After all, an engaged investor tends to be a successful investor.

Not surprisingly, one question dominates. And that's the question we're addressing in this special report.

The question: "How do I buy gold?"

As a service to the Money Morning readers who have asked that question, or who've had that same thought, I've put together this overview - or primer - that addresses the basic ins and outs of buying gold. In this feature, I address some of the more-common and more-timely questions that I've been getting.



To find out how to buy gold, please read on...

Money Morning Mid-Year Forecast: Why China's Economy Will Exceed Expectations in the Second Half of 2010

The rapid growth China's economy experienced in the first half of the year was a blessing and a curse. It helped propel the world out of a disastrous recession, but it forced policymakers into action to prevent overheating - which scared off many investors.

But the fact is that while most of the world was struggling to keep the engine of economic recovery from sputtering to a halt, China spent the first half of 2010 with its foot on the brake. And now that the Red Dragon has reigned in growth, the second half of 2010 will likely look very different from the first.

Money Morning Chief Investment Strategist Keith Fitz-Gerald says nearly everyone felt the first quarter's 11.9% growth in Chinese gross domestic product (GDP) was "too hot." But the 10.3% growth China saw in the second quarter will likely be topped in the second half.

The reasons for that are simple:

"From an investment perspective, the single biggest concern right now is how hard and for how long the Chinese government will keep tapping on the brakes," says Fitz-Gerald. "I personally don't think it's going to be too much longer - an easing sometime in the third quarter now seems realistic."

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After a Strong First Half, Is the U.S. Dollar Headed for a Reversal?

In spite of an assortment of economic uncertainties at home, the U.S. dollar has been the star of the currency world for most of 2010. Spooked by persistent and seemingly insurmountable debt problems in the European Union - and the specter of unsustainable growth and potential inflation in China - investors fled European and Asian currencies for the perceived relative safe haven of the dollar.

But the U.S. dollar may have topped out.

Let me explain ...

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Are 'Pure-Play' ETFs a Shrewd Investment – Or a Risk Not Worth Taking?

They're called "pure-play" exchange-traded funds (ETFs). And they're the latest rage in the ETF sector.

But are they too much of a risk?

According to Dictionary.com, a mutual fund is an investment company "that gives small investors access to a well-diversified portfolio of equities, bonds and other securities," professionally managed to "match the objective stated in the (fund's) prospectus."

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Chinese Real Estate: Four Ways to Profit From the Biggest Urban Migration in History

SHANGHAI, The People's Republic of China - Given what you may have heard about Chinese property values in recent months, it may surprise you to learn that Chinese real estate investors are extremely value oriented.

And so are the institutional investors I've run into during my latest investment-research visit to this country. These institutional players want to lock up some valuable land parcels before 2020. That's the date by which 500 million Chinese citizens are expected to have moved into China's cities as part of the greatest urban migration ever recorded.

You can do the math: We're talking about a group that's 1.6 times the entire U.S. population ... moving from China's countryside to its cities in the next 10 years.



To discover four ways to profit from this massive migration, read on...

Low Stock Market Volume: It's Even Weaker Than You Think

Conventional investing wisdom tells us that when stocks rally on low stock market volume, traders perceive that lack of widespread participation as an indicator of the market's future vulnerability.

And as torrid as this rally in U.S. stock prices has been, the lack of trading volume has been a consistent cause for concern.

Unfortunately for market bulls, even this well-chronicled concern doesn't tell the whole story. That's because U.S. stock market volume is even worse - actually, much worse - than anyone realizes. And this ultra-low stock market volume should be sending up some serious red flags for investors.

To find out how Wall Street is artificially inflating stock-market volume, read on ...

Money Morning Mailbag: Short-Term Maturities Are the Best Bet for Tax-Free Municipal Bonds

Question:  We have some money invested in tax-free municipal bonds, but read in the local newspaper that with the potential rise of interest rates these bonds tend to do poorly. Can you better explain this, and if this is the case, what do you recommend?  I appreciate your input. Thank you.

- Joan


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How to Profit from the New Iranian Sanction

Growing up in Massachusetts, my mother used to say, "Live long enough, and you'll see just about anything happen in politics."

And she was right.

A wrestler, a standup comic, several movie actors, and former sports figures have been elected to office; tea parties are back as a way of challenging leadership; even a disgraced former governor makes it onto "Celebrity Apprentice."

But she never saw this one coming - a U.S. sanctions move against Iran that may actually work... and make you some money in the process.

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Are Coal Prices Ready to Burn Hot in 2010?

For most of the past 50 years, since the birth of environmental awareness, coal has been the "black sheep" of the power-production family. Now, thanks to more efficient furnaces, better exhaust-scrubbing systems and other technological advances, coal is regaining favor in the world's energy markets.

However, the biggest factor in coal's recent price surge is steadily increasing demand for the fossil fuel in power generation and steel-making process, abetted by rising costs for other types of fuel, like oil and natural gas.

The question for investors, of course, is will this rising demand continue - and how can you profit if it does?

The answer to the first part of that question is almost certainly, "yes," but solving the second part is a little trickier.

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Six Ways to Profit as Brazil's Economy Takes Off

In many ways, Brazil offers some of the best prospects among emerging markets and deserves to be a core holding in any international portfolio.

Brazil's economy had only a shallow recession and is now recovering nicely. Its market has been one of the best performing since Dec. 31, 2008, and both inflation and the budget deficit remain under control.

Yet one can be only moderately bullish - and I'll explain why.



To find out how to profit from Brazil's bullish prospects, read on...

How to Profit From China's Next Move

For many investors who don't have the benefit of 20 years of experience in Asia like I do, figuring out what Beijing is up to is both puzzling and difficult.

But a handy little tool called a "Form 13F" can help.

In case you're not familiar with it, the 13F is a disclosure document that the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) requires institutional-investment managers to file when they hold $100 million or more of certain U.S.-listed stocks.

China's $300 billion sovereign wealth fund (SWF) - the China Investment Corp. (CIC) - just filed its first-ever 13F with the SEC, revealing that it purchased about $9.6 billion worth of U.S. stocks last year.

And it confirms much of what we've been telling you since the global financial crisis began - namely that China would take advantage of the crisis by purchasing beaten-down stocks, resources, and hard assets ... and in a big way.

Even more important, this filing hints at what China is likely to do next - an insight that will help investors figure out where to put their money in order to maximize their personal profits.

To discover how to profit from China's next move, read on...

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