Posts Tagged ‘customer’ Teams With TradeKing to Facilitate Risk Management

July 11th, 2012

San Francisco, California, July 11, 2012–, an online service that helps investors of all levels manage investment risk, announced today that the SmartStops BrokerLink service is now available for clients of online broker Read more…

ETF, Mutual Fund, OPTIONS, Uncategorized

Stay Away From These 2 Popular Stocks

June 8th, 2011

Stay Away From These 2 Popular Stocks

Even as the broader stock market shows signs of a clear pullback, some of the hottest stocks in the market remain near their 52-week highs — and they still carry very high valuations to boot. But if history is any guide, then these are now among the most vulnerable stocks in the market. Any further big drops in the broader market could prove especially painful for these highflyers.

Richly-valued stocks can stay aloft at the beginning of a big market pullback, but as we saw in 2001 and again in 2008, they eventually can suffer massive corrections as investors shift to defense and start to focus on value instead of growth. If you own highflying names like (NYSE: CRM) or VMWare (NYSE: VMW), for example, then you need to seriously reconsider just how vulnerable stocks like these can be.


Google: The Bigger They Come, The Harder They Fall

May 27th, 2011

by Paul Harrison, contributing writer

Google’s (GOOG) high point for 2011 so far came back in January, when their stock hit just below $640 a share.  And in terms of being able to sidestep downtrends, nothing like have the SmartStops risk management service notify you  on Jan. 21st at $616 that now may be the time to exit.  And if you didn’t then, their risk alerts just kept firing.  That’s why its important to have your exit or hedge protection methodology in place from the start. As now  we’re sitting at around $518 a share!  And things still aren’t looking good.

According to SmartStops , Google is still in a high risk state  in boththe short term and the long term time horizons.  In fact, Google has dropped over 12% in valuejust since the beginning of April.

Part of that is that Google has just been spending way too much money. Their spending affected their 1Q earnings report, and none of that spending is expected to bring any new money making consumer services to market soon.  That explains their previous drops, but what about the future?  Google Wallet was unveiled yesterday, backedby Citibank (C) and Mastercard (MA), but the digital wallet is a long ways awayfrom replacing people’s standard business card and picture stuffed wallet.

There are some serious drawbacks and limitations to theGoogle Wallet service. First, only the Google Nexus S phone on the Sprint (S)network comes equipped with the necessary NFC technology (which is not apopular phone at all).  Next, the customer has to have a Mastercard branded Citibank debit or credit card.  On top of that, only a handful of retailers nationallyare even technically capable of accepting NFC payments at this point. But thoseare just the issues with the actual service. There’s also expected to be some serious competition around the corner.  Both Research in Motion (RIMM), Nokia (NOK), and Samsung all plan on implementing technology that would enable their phones to make NFC payments, and many people have speculated that Apple’s (AAPL) iPhone 5 will also include NFC technology.

But the competition for turning our smartphones into payment methods doesn’t stop there.  Visa (V)recently invested in the disruptive mobile payment start-up Square (founded byJack Dorsey of Twitter), and is concurrently developing their own mobile wallet service.

Even without all this competition staring Google and their digital wallet in the face, the service may be unlikely to catch on immediately. First, payments are limited to $100, unless you go through extra steps to confirm the transaction.  But one of the biggest things that could keep people from using it is the fact that it doesn’t completely replace wallets for people. Certain things like your ID, bus pass, employee ID, health insurancecard, etc., still need a home, and that home is likely to be the same walletthey live in now for at least the next few years. If you’re holding Google, Istrongly recommend using a service like to monitor the situation.

If you’re looking to invest in the smartphone industry, butaren’t sure which team you’re rooting for, the First Trust NASDAQ CEA SmartphoneIndex Fund (FONE) is a great ETF that holds anything and everything that issmartphone related.

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Google: The Bigger They Come, The Harder They Fall


ETF, Uncategorized

Latest CD Options Give You More Flexibility

May 24th, 2011

As market volatility continues to keep investors cautious, many are holding cash on the sidelines where interest rates remain dismally low. And with interest rate increases looming, no one wants to get locked in to today’s low rates. Financial institutions know that too. So to attract and keep your deposits, more of them are offering certificate of deposits (CDs) with flexible options.

CDs are offered to consumers by banks, thrifts and credit unions. They are similar to savings accounts in that they are covered by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) or by the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA).

So as long as your institution is insured and your investment amount stays within the insured limits, you have some measure of safety. But even with insurance coverage, you’ll want to be sure you’re putting your money in a safe institution.

Why? Because insurance may take time to kick in, possibly leaving you without access to your cash when you need it. And the entities that provide insurance have a set amount of funds, which could leave folks holding the bag if too many institutions fail in a short timespan.

Keep Your Money Safe

While all federally insured institutions are regulated and examined by the U.S. government, those government entities don’t share that information with the public.

So it’s smart to do some checking on your own before turning over your money. And always refer to Weiss Ratings to be sure the bank, thrift or credit union is financially sound. The ratings are free! All you need to do is register.

Different than a Savings Account

Although CDs are similar to savings accounts, they’re different in that they have a specified time to maturity. Maturity terms usually run from three to six months, or from one to five years. For a consumer to receive their full principal and interest return, the deposit must remain for the full term.

CDs are especially good if you have a time-specific savings need or if you just want to diversify risk in your portfolio. CDs allow you to decide how much money to put in and for how long.

Usually financial institutions offer CD customers higher interest rates than on regular deposit accounts. That’s because you can withdraw money from a regular deposit account whenever you want. The higher interest rate for CDs is a reward to customers for keeping money with the institution for a set timeframe.

Generally institutions also pay higher rates for longer-term CDs. But in today’s economy where rates are expected to go higher in the future, locking in today’s rate might not be the smartest move. It would tie up your cash and keep you from grabbing a higher rate later.

Ladder Your CDs

Laddering CDs can help keep your cash invested, and also give you an opportunity to take advantage of rising rates. To implement a “ladder” strategy, you would try to take advantage of the highest available current rate, and then have your CDs mature at different intervals.

For example, you could invest one amount for three months, another for six months, yet another for one year, three years and five years.

This way, as your CDs mature, you’ll be able to renew the CD or withdraw the funds. And not all of your money will be subject to whims of the rate environment that exists at that particular time.

This is a strategy that you manage rather than the bank. So you can distribute your money to different institutions. And you can change institutions at maturity if better rates are available elsewhere.

Step-Up CDs

Some institutions are offering step-up CDs as an incentive for investors concerned about locking in their investment at today’s low rates.

A step-up CD usually has a built-in schedule for when the interest rate will be adjusted. The rates change at intervals specified at the time you purchase. The rate at each step up may also be specified. Or they may be based on movements of the U.S. prime rate or the London Inter-Bank Offered Rate (LIBOR), both of which are often used as benchmarks.

Often the initial rate on a step-up CD will be lower than rates for traditional CDs. So if rates don’t actually rise, you may end up with a lower yield to maturity. Depending on your needs the flexibility may be worth it.

Bump-Up CDs

This is another way to earn interest without worrying about missing out on rate increases after you’ve signed on the dotted line. They’re similar to the step-up, with just a slightly different twist.

Most banks allow only one bump up to a higher rate before maturity. You may find a few banks that do allow it on a more frequent basis.

Again, these CDs usually start out with lower rates than traditional fixed-rate CDs. But this may be a small price for the flexibility to get in on a rate increase.

These are not recommended for shorter-term maturities because there is a much smaller chance rates will rise in that timeframe. And if they don’t, you’ll earn less than with a traditional CD.

No-Penalty CDs

The no-penalty CD allows you to withdraw from a CD before maturity without incurring a fee.

The step-up and bump-up options are forms of no-penalty CDs. Without the bump and step options, you would have to pay a fee to close the CD early and buy a new one at a higher rate.

Customers like the flexibility of these CDs. Financial institutions like them too because they can offer lower entry rates and quite possibly pay the customer less over the term of the CD.

Where Can I Find Them?

Most large institutions have some form of flexible CDs. But you might find more variations at smaller banks that want to attract and retain customers. Check online and visit local branches. Often branches have special offers or walk-in offers that you won’t see advertised.

Compare, Compare, Compare

The next time you’re considering a CD, make sure you compare the different features offered.

Look at the time to maturity. Make sure you know how long your money will be tied up and how that compares with alternate investments.

Compare the rate and the yield. Interest compounding methods, daily versus monthly or quarterly, can make a real difference in the interest your investment will earn.

Find out whether the interest will change. Is the rate fixed or variable? Are there bump-up or step-up terms? And find out whether and how much of a penalty there might be if you withdraw your money before the CD matures.

Know what the minimum is for you to qualify for the stated interest rate.

Understand when and how you will get paid. How often does the bank pay interest? It could be for instance: Monthly, semiannually, or at maturity. Also find out how you’ll get paid. Will they send a check or transfer funds into your account electronically? And how long after maturity can you expect to receive your original deposit.

If you have any questions, ask the sales person to explain the terms and features.

And while you’re doing that, make an assessment of the answers you get and the customer service you receive during your shopping process. That’ll give you a good feel for the institution’s personnel.

For details on how we help investors protect and growth their wealth, visit Weiss Research.

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Latest CD Options Give You More Flexibility

Commodities, ETF, Mutual Fund, OPTIONS, Uncategorized

Growth, Income, a Defensive Business — This Stock Has it All

April 1st, 2011

Growth, Income, a Defensive Business -- This Stock Has it All

Think back to the last time you were on the road for business. You decided to drive because you were covering some of the outlying areas in the territory and it was much more cost effective. You skipped lunch so you could get to Slapback, Miss. to see your customer by 4:00 pm. When you made a pit stop at the Gas-n-Go or the Raceway, or wherever, you needed some kind of nosh.

What did you grab? That's right: a Coke and some peanut butter crackers. My guess is that there was a 70% chance those little crackers were made by Lance Inc. (Nasdaq: LNCE), the greatest little snack food company you've never heard of.

Lance isn't that little, actually. With a $1.3 billion market cap, the company has been manufacturing and distributing snack foods such as sandwich crackers and cookies since 1912. It serves most of the country and, thanks to the recent acquisition of pretzel peddler Snyder's of Hanover, they're poised to gain even more market share in the tough, crowded, snack-food sector.

I stumbled onto Lance back in June of 2000. A client of mine was singing the blues thanks to the drubbing his tech-heavy portfolio was taking (who wasn't). He was looking for a long idea so I threw Lance out. It was trading around $9 and yielding 7%. “They make chips,” I said. “The kind you eat.” Luckily he had a good sense of humor. We bought a small position. We sold it a few years later at about $18.

Over the years, I've gone back and taken a look at the stock every so often. The story wasn't as exciting at $24 (it's 52-week high) as it was back then at $9. But, now at $20, I'm excited again.

A smart merger + strong earnings growth + institutional buying = Recipe for success

In December 2010, Lance completed what was described as a merger of equals with Snyder's of Hanover. Snyder's was best known as the market leader in pretzels. Combined, the new company, billed as Snyder's-Lance Inc., boasts a portfolio of well-known snack-food brands that include Lance sandwich crackers (Lance's famous Toastchee cheese and peanut butter cracker sandwich was introduced during the Great Depression in 1938), Archway cookies and Cape Cod Potato chips. The company also has a strong foothold in vending machines throughout the country.

Pound for pound, the merger made a lot of sense. Lance now has a national, direct store delivery network and a national footprint, which


Drink Up: Investing in the Emerging Alcohol Market

September 14th, 2010

“Too much work, and no vacation, deserves at least a small libation. So hail! my friends, and raise your glasses, work’s the curse of the drinking classes.” – Oscar Wilde

“Sinvesting” is a theme that we monitor constantly at The Lifetime Income Report. We have previously explained why tobacco in emerging economies is a steal. Today, we’re raising a glass of hooch to the next-best sin play.

From the very beginning of written history, alcohol has played a significant role. In everything from Homer’s tale of Odysseus tricking the Cyclops with wine to monks brewing beer to expand and build new monasteries, alcohol has played a role in human history.

Booze is one cultural, social and economic staple that will not go away anytime soon. Right now, Europe still has the top drinkers in the world. In the Czech Republic, legal drinkers consume a whopping 157 liters of beer per person each year. Little old Luxembourg consumed the most total alcohol including wine and liquor per person. The rest of the continent is holding its own near the top of every list we can find.

But the real story isn’t Europe. It’s emerging economies. China, for instance, consumes the most beer of any country in the world. But its per capita consumption doesn’t even squeak the Asian giant into the top 20. This number is growing, however. As China’s average median income continues to grow, so does its drinking stats. Already, we’re seeing annual volume consumption rates growing in the low double digits.

South America, however, has the best investment opportunities.

Compania Cervecerias Unidas SA (NYSE:CCU) is the leading beer and soft drink producer in Chile and Argentina. CCU is a fully scaled, vertically integrated mega distributor. Meaning, the company makes and sells its products like no other operator. It contracts, produces, markets and distributes a wide range of products, like soft drinks, wine, bottled water and even snack food. But the real moneymaker for CCU is its beer.

The company owns exclusive rights to a variety of brand names. For instance, Anheuser-Busch agreed to an exclusivity deal with CCU back in 1995. That deal, which guarantees every Budweiser bottle, can or keg that is sold in Argentina will go through CCU, was extended until 2025. Because of the Anheuser-InBev merger, the contract will need to be renegotiated by 2015. But that’s not even a drop in the bucket of what CCU has to offer shareholders.

With its origins dating back to 1850, CCU has the experience and connections in its region to capitalize on the best brands and sales outlets. Like Anheuser does here in the US, CCU controls the marketing scheme of most of its customers. Let us explain…

Take your average supermarket. In the beer aisle, you’ll probably see stacks of Budweiser and Bud Light at eye level…right in the middle of the aisle. You’ll also see Miller and Coors products around there too. Meanwhile, imports and craft beers are subjected to shelf space in the far corners and above or below the customer’s eye level. The reason for this: The big three – Anheuser-Busch, Miller and Molson Coors – are able to set up the display arrangements with retailers in advance. Of course, this is all done through distributors to comply with US law. But the Chilean and Argentinean laws on alcohol sales are even more lax, giving CCU exclusive marketing power no one else has.

On top of its powerhouse marketing efforts, CCU also controls the best brands in the business: Kunstmann, Dorada, Escudo and Cristal – by far, the most popular beers in Chile. On top of these popular domestic brands, CCU also sells through partnerships: Heineken, Paulaner and, of course, Budweiser.

These brands have helped this century-and-a-half-year-old company gain control of roughly 85% of the Chilean beer market, not including its stake in other manufacturers. CCU is working on obtaining a market share like this in Argentina. But the company has operated there since only 1995, so its fast-growing 22% is still pretty respectable.

CCU's Fast Growing Market Share

With this kind of market share, CCU sets the rules. Even though beer is one of the most stable industries in the world, especially throughout recessions, overall consumption is trending down in some major markets. We noted that Western Europe is the most hop-imbibed continent on the plant. But it may not have the top drinkers forever.

The eight largest consuming nations per capita are drinking less and less beer each year – seven of these are European.

South America is taking up the slack. According to a CCU study in 2008, Chilean beer consumption grew more than 30% between 2004-2008. In Argentina, which is already a heavier drinking nation, consumption grew 23% in that period. And as these countries continue to grow their middle classes, we could be looking at massive consumption growth trends.

While we don’t expect either nation to drink as much as Western nations do anytime soon, we can’t help ourselves from comparing them. In the US, we consume about 79 liters of beer per person each year. In Chile, that number is just 36 liters per person. And Argentina comes in at 43 liters per person. Better yet, CCU is expanding to the rest of its continent. It is squirming its way into the lucrative Brazilian and Columbian markets. CCU is also looking at some smaller surrounding markets.

These tremendous trends would be enough to make us think about investing in CCU on their own. But this is only half of the growth potential this play has to offer…

Beer currently makes up a significant portion of the company’s business. But it isn’t the only segment CCU is dominant in. In fact, nearly half of the company’s top line comes from wine, spirits and nonalcoholic beverages.

Chilean wine is already recognized as some of the best in the world. Making up just 16% of CCU’s business, you wouldn’t think it to be too important. But with the world consuming more and more wine from Chile, CCU has been able to grow its wine sales volume a massive 24% in just the last four quarters. On top of solid growth from its wine business, the company’s nonalcoholics segment has an ace up its sleeve. CCU has exclusive rights to Pepsi as well.

All in all, CCU offers a one-stop play on the growth of the South American economy. That’s a play I’m happy to take.


Jim Nelson
for The Daily Reckoning

Drink Up: Investing in the Emerging Alcohol Market originally appeared in the Daily Reckoning. The Daily Reckoning, offers a uniquely refreshing, perspective on the global economy, investing, gold, stocks and today’s markets. Its been called “the most entertaining read of the day.”

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Drink Up: Investing in the Emerging Alcohol Market

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