ETFs Article

Why Gold Mutual Funds Are Attractive Investments

gold mutual funds

Gold mutual funds are gaining attention as a safe-haven investment to hedge against the market volatility 2014 has brought so far.

These types of investments are managed by professionals who analyze and monitor the movement of gold and invest accordingly in bullions and equities.

Here we examine one method for how to invest in gold, using gold mutual funds.

Plus we’ve highlighted a few to get you started today…

Stake Your Claim to $70 Billion of Global Growth

Emerging markets frequently promise better returns than their domestic counterparts.

Still, they come with a special set of (manageable) risks that we don't always find at home.

A profound reaction to the Fed's tapering, higher-than-comfortable inflation, current account deficits, and outright political instability have all made for a volatile 2014 in the emerging markets.

It's easy to see why. Investors are worried about how they'll be impacted by the tapering of the Federal Reserve's bond purchases. And now Brazil, India, Indonesia, Turkey, Russia, and South Africa are now experiencing inflation of 6% to 7%.

Those same countries are facing current account deficits of between 4% and 7%, which places downward pressure on their currencies and upward pressure on inflation and interest rates.

And political volatility in Russia, Ukraine, Turkey, and elsewhere are contributing to uncertainty that's reflected in market performance.

But the truth is, for investors who know what they're holding, these emerging markets still hold outsize profit potential.

And taking your share of this growth has never been easier, thanks to these special securities...

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Three ETF Investing Picks to Make Your Portfolio Pop Today

stock crystal ball

Even after U.S. investors poured record-breaking levels of cash into ETFs in 2013, ETF investing is still more popular than ever.

In March, assets of ETFs (exchange-traded funds) and ETPs (exchange-traded products) in the United States reached a new record high of $1.73 trillion. In the first quarter of 2014 alone, ETFs/ETPs in the U.S. gathered net inflows of $15 billion, with 1,568 ETFs/ETPs listed from 57 providers on three exchanges.

Because of the wealth of advantages that ETFs provide, our experts recently offered insight into three different options for ETF investing – and each pick has unique upside given current economic conditions.

The Top Emerging Market ETFs of 2014

Investors have been running from emerging markets in 2014, but two emerging market ETFs have pulled in double-digit gains this year.

More than $7 billion has been withdrawn from emerging market exchange-traded funds in 2014. As a result, funds like the iShares MSCI Brazil Capped Index Fund (NYSE: EWZ) and Global X FTSE Argentina 20 ETF (NYSE: ARGT) have dropped 10.3% and 9.4%, respectively.

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The Best Place to Look For Income Today

It's a good rule of thumb: when stocks yield more than bonds, stocks are the better buy because of the potential for growth.

Believe it or not, before the financial crisis in 2008 that was hardly the case. Going all the way back to 1958, bond yields always outpaced those of stocks.

But thanks to Ben Bernanke and friends, bond yields have been driven into the basement. What's more, the central banks of the world are doing everything in the power to keep them there.

That's why investors are increasingly turning to exchange-traded funds that specialize in dividend stocks as vehicles for income.

This makes good sense for a couple of reasons. First, bond markets aren't very transparent, which makes bond prices difficult to come by, so ordinary investors get ripped off if they buy corporate bonds directly.

Second, in today's markets you will do better in a high-dividend stock ETF--especially one with an international portfolio, than you will in a bond ETF.

Let me show you why that is...

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Investing in ETFs: Check Out These Three for 2012

Since exchange-traded funds (ETFs) made their U.S. debut in 1993, they have grown to a market of more than $1 trillion.

Those investing in ETFs enjoy it because ETFs provide diversification to portfolios, are tax-efficient, come at a low cost, and are readily available.

ETFs are also appealing because you can find them at any time: they're bought and sold from brokerage firms and they trade on exchanges similar to stocks.

Another attractive aspect to ETF investors is when they exit the product, the shares are sold to an investor; the fund doesn't have to sell assets.

One investment adviser and decade-long ETF user, Mark Armbruster, told The Wall Street Journal, "From my perspective, it is the most compelling reason to use ETFs. If they're managed appropriately, there should never be capital-gains distributions."

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How to Buy Penny Stocks

Of all the investment vehicles out there, few offer greater potential than penny stocks. Yet penny stocks are not for the faint of heart.

That's why a clear understanding of how to buy penny stocks is essential before diving in to the market.

You see, behind the potential for large gains is the indisputable fact that many of today's most dynamic companies were once little more than penny issues themselves.

That means that at least a few of tomorrow's market leaders are currently lurking among stocks listed on the Over-the-Counter Bulletin Board (OTCBB) or the so-called "Pink Sheets."

Penny Stocks That Hit it Big

As proof, consider just three examples.

These are companies that have risen from true penny status to positions of prominence handing early and enduring investors almost unimaginable profits:

  • Green Valley Coffee Roasters Inc. (Nasdaq: GMCR) - Thanks to four splits, 100 shares purchased in October 1998 at $4.62 a share ($462) is now 2,700 shares priced at $20.45 a share, worth $55,215. But the stock actually hit $107.99 in September 2011, making it then worth $291,573.
  • Bally Technologies Inc. (NYSE: BYI) - Two splits turned 100 shares of this gaming-machine maker purchased at $1.69 a share ($169) in May 2000 into 400 shares, now priced at $45.98 and worth $18,392.
  • Jos. A Bank Clothiers Inc. (Nasdaq: JOSB) - You could have purchased 100 shares of this clothing retailer in November 1999 at $2.78 a share ($278). After four splits, that position has turned into 351 shares now priced at $41.29, worth $14,492.79. At the height in May 2011 those shares were $56.05 each, worth a total of $19,673.
These are just a few of the better-known companies on a long list of stocks that have gone from micro-cap levels to mid- or large-cap valuations.

It doesn't include the many penny mining stocks that exploded upward with skyrocketing resource prices or "fallen angels" like Bank of America (NYSE: BAC). A complete listing of such stocks would go on for pages.

Of course, a listing of stocks that have gone from penny status - defined by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) as "a very small company priced below $5.00 per share" - down to zero would be far, far longer. That's why these stocks are among the riskiest on the board.

That's the challenge for investors - avoiding the big losers in the penny stock market.

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Are Junk Bonds About to Become a Victim of Their Own Popularity?

In our current low-interest-rate environment, many investors are widening their search for more income by buying junk.

Junk bonds, that is.

More formally known as high-yield bonds - junk bonds have been on a tear lately.

With the Federal Reserve vowing to keep interest rates at or near zero through 2014, investors seeking higher-yield investments are eyeing junk bond exchange-traded funds (ETFs).

Investors dumped $31 billion into high-yield bond funds during the first quarter of 2012 according to research firm EPFR Global. That's almost four times the global demand for junk-bond funds in 2011.

Here's why.

Junk bonds are offering generous dividends at a time when most other bond investments aren't even matching the rate of inflation.

"Clients are essentially trying to replace the income they used to get from their government bonds," Hans Olsen, head of investment strategy in the Americas for Barclays Wealth, told Bloomberg News.

Indeed, one of the largest junk bond exchange traded funds, the iShares iBoxx High Yield Corporate Bond (NYSEArca: HYG) is currently yielding more than 7%, while yields on the 10-year Treasury note hover just above 2%.

But while robust demand and issuance for junk bonds is a sign of a healthy market, there are reasons for concern.

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Investing In ETFs: How Exchange-Traded Funds Can Save You Money

High commissions and management fees, along with taxes, can really cut into your returns.

That's where exchange-traded funds, or ETFs, come in. In today's investment world, ETFs are cheaper and more tax-friendly than mutual funds.

The average expense ratio for U.S.-listed ETFs is 0.4%, compared with 1.42% for diversified U.S. stock funds.They also give you exposure to an entire industry or market with the click of a mouse.

It's one of the reasons why exchange-traded funds are quickly becoming the investment of choice for investors seeking broad market exposure.

In fact, the number of ETFs has surged over 10-fold in the last decade.

The total number of ETFs in the market grew to 1,114 by October 2011, with assets over $1 trillion, according to the Investment Company Institute.

And the ETF market will expand to roughly $3.1 trillion by 2016, according to projections from the Financial Research Corp. in Boston.

So if you're looking to diversify your portfolio and save money doing it, ETFs may be the way to go.

Here's a primer on how ETFs can work for you.

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The Case for Spitting into the Wind (At Least for Now)

You've heard the expression "You don't spit into the wind," haven't you?

Well, it's true when it comes to trading and investing, too. You keep the wind at your back, and you don't give up easy profits by bucking the trend.

That's all well and good, so long as the wind is coming from a discernible direction. I prefer a warm southwest breeze myself. That's why I live where I live (in Miami).

But we have no control over the many ill winds that blow over our investing horizons.

The best we can do is stay aware of subtle shifts in directional changes, and watch out they don't strengthen into hurricane-force monsters.

I've been cautiously (too cautious, I admit) bullish since October, and I remain optimistic that stocks have enough momentum to try and push through important psychological barriers - such as 13,000 on the Dow, 1,375 and 1,400 on the S&P 500, and 3,000 on Nasdaq.

That doesn't mean we won't see a correction first. Or that last Tuesday wasn't a tiny correction in and of itself.

But 30 years of hardcore trading, and catching every major move in that long time span (no, I hardly ever pick the exact top or bottom, but I have come close) has taught me to go with my gut, to know when I "blink" that it means something.

And lately, I'm starting to "blink" more and more...

I'm getting the feeling that something's wrong, and, somewhere, the eye of a terrible storm could be forming. There's nothing out there that I've read (and I read a lot), or heard, or come across in any research, either quantitative or fundamental, that articulates what this nagging feeling is that's hanging over markets.

So, it looks like I'll have to be the one to put it out there.

But first let me be clear. I'm not spitting into the wind here. I'm still going with the path of least resistance.

What I am doing is presenting the backdrop of what people have lost sight of as they look front and center on the investing stage.

Am I saying the eye of a hurricane is forming? No. I'm saying it already has formed.

I'm saying keep buying cautiously and keep raising your stops as markets go higher, if they do. I'm saying keep watching these developments with me.

Things change, and this brewing storm could dissipate, but it could also turn really ugly, really quickly.

If the storm strengthens, and that's my bet, have a fail-safe plan to get out of speculative long positions, a plan to selectively add to core positions on the way down, and a plan to put on short-side positions that will make you a ton of money if I'm right.

Okay, ready?

Here's where the winds have shifted...

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Five Savvy Ways to Conquer the Wall of Worry


If you like extreme risk and consider living on the edge to be "normal," today's column isn't for you.

Today I'm writing to the millions of investors who are completely terrified by the prospect of what's next and who simply want their faith restored - not to mention their investments.

To all of them I would say: You are not alone and you're not wrong to be apprehensive.

Our political situation is an embarrassing train wreck, our national debt looks like a one way trip to financial hell, housing remains in the dungeon, unemployment is unacceptably high and Europe...oh Europe.

It's nothing short of a gigantic wall of worry.

Plus, there have been so many attempts to "fix" things that I've lost count. Throwing good money after bad is a fool's game and one that will have very real and inevitable consequences.

So what should investors do?

The Fed's War on Capitalism

Here's how I see things. The "Whitewash Ministry" has basically five options:

  1. Repression
  2. Devaluation
  3. Austerity
  4. Deflation
  5. Inflation
You can forget the double "d's" - devaluation and deflation.

Even though both would be the proper way for free markets to bleed out the excesses of the past, they are essentially political nukes and nobody has the willpower to touch either one of them.

The third, austerity, is being tried but only halfheartedly. Our leaders have no idea what this actually means. Since they remain completely unaccountable, there is no true incentive.

Besides, large numbers of people have figured out it's easier to be on the dole than it is to actually work, so this is another disincentive for meaningful cuts in spending.

As for inflation, this too is officially a non-starter as long as interest rates are held near zero. Unofficially, it's a different story. Most investors I know are feeling the heat of 12% to 15% a year in their wallets.

That leaves option number one - repression.

You can call it what you want, but repression is really a fancy way of saying that our government is conducting punitive monetary policy.

While they mouth off about how they want to create jobs and take care of the middle class, in reality they're eviscerating it.

How?

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