An Overview Of The Stock Market

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When you are interested in investing in the stock market one of the first things you will need is a reliable and affordable stockbroker

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When you are interested in investing in the stock market one of the first things you will need is a reliable and affordable stockbroker. At one point in time, a stockbroker was seen as a very high priced person that was extremely hard to understand. In today’s world, stockbrokers have become much different, they have begun to make their services cheaper to obtain and in such a way that is easier to understand. This is an extremely wonderful change for the simple reason that you will not be able to trade in any way, shape, or form without a stockbroker.

One of the major rules within the stock market is that no person is allowed to trade within the stock market unless they are a certified stockbroker. A stockbroker, within the United Kingdom twelve million investor’s trade in the stock market, performs every trade that occurs and each one has enlisted the services of a stockbroker.

So you are probably now wondering, what exactly can a stockbroker do for me? There is a wide range of abilities and services that any stockbroker can offer you, at the same time there are also various ranges of fees that will be collected from them. Typically, a stockbroker will charge a commission, a set fee, or some combination of the two. In regards to the services a stockbroker can offer you, there are three basic levels that include only execution, portfolio management, and advice.

When a stockbroker only deals with the selling and buying of particular shares, per the instructions you give them, this is generally called execution only or in softer terms dealing only. With this type of service, they do not offer you any type of advice on any action you want perform. Typically, investors that are experienced or novice in investing will use this type of service. Execution only is cheaper and extremely efficient the fees the stockbroker charges can range anywhere between ?0 to hundreds of pounds, this will depend on the specific stockbroker you choose.

Portfolio management is extremely detailed and the most expensive type of service performed and dealing with advice is typically a little more expensive than execution only, because the stockbroker will offer advice and views on what is happening within the stock market. The stockbroker at this level of service will also take the time to explain anything you may not understand very well.

Within the portfolio management service, you can separate these into two other categories these are advisory and discretionary. When under the advisory category, the stockbroker will create a proposal of a portfolio for you; however, he or she will not take any action without express permission from you. Within the discretionary category, your stockbroker will completely run all aspects of your portfolio and will give you reports as needs on how the portfolio is working.

An Introduction To CFD Trading (Part 1)

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Want to know all about successful CFD trading? It’s easier than you think once you understand the keys to how CFD trading works. This article provides all the tricks and tips you need to know to make it happen.

Here’s a really simple yet useful tutorial on CFD trading that will get you up and running very quickly if you’re new to CFD trading.

By the time you finish this article, you’ll know how CFDs work, what makes them highly profitable, and understand the costs involved in CFD trading.

CFD stands for Contracts For Difference, which is a derivative product, where you profit from changes in the prices of stocks and shares.

For example, if you buy a CFD on a stock that’s $5.00 and the price rises to $5.50, then you profit from that change in price. So if you bought 1000 CFDs, then your profit is $500. That is, the value of the CFDs mirror the underlying stock prices, and you can profit on this movement.

The reasons why CFDs are a very popular trading product, and understandably so, are:

1. CFDs are traded on leverage, and this leverage is typically 10 to 1, with some CFD brokers providing 20 to 1 leverage. This means that a trader with a small float can make decent profits from trading the stock market by using CFDs. For example, you may have a stock trading system that makes a 30% return per annum. On a $5000 float, this is $1500 profit in one year. With CFDs, because of the leverage, the same system can now produce a 300% return, which is $15 000 profit in one year.

2. You can just as easily short sell CFDs as well, and therefore profit from falling markets. This greatly increases the profitability of a trading system because trading opportunities increase dramatically, and the fact that you can profit from both bull and bear markets.

3. The costs in CFD trading are relatively low when compared to stocks. This is especially so, since for a similar and often smaller cost per trade, you can gain 10 or greater times the results from a trade due to the leverage available. The 2 main costs in CFD trading are interest and leverage. We’ll come to these in a moment.

4. You can set automatic stop losses. This means that it will take you less time to trade, remove the emotion from exiting a trade when you should, and allow you to exit as the stop is hit, not a day later. You therefore avoid the slippage due to getting out of a trade later than when you intended.

5. You can place all your orders in the evenings. With many CFD providers, you can place orders to enter a position the night before. For people who are working, this is a great advantage as they can do all their trading (place their orders to enter and their stop losses) in the evenings, and not need to be at the computer screen or call their broker during the day. Also, if they have any stop losses that need adjusting, they can do so in the evenings as well. Their trading routine with a mechanical system can be about 10-15 minutes per day.

So these are the advantages of CFDs that have made trading accessible to so many people because they provide large returns for a modest float, and can also be traded once a day as well.

Now, we mentioned that there are 2 main costs in CFD trading. Let’s have a closer look now at each of them:

1. Commission. With some CFD providers, there is in fact no commission. This also greatly increases the profitability of your CFD trading systems, as well as the fact that you can benefit hugely from the leverage. With other CFD providers, there may be a commission of say 0.15% of the trade size or $15, whichever is greater, each way. These costs are similar or less than the commission associated with stock trading, especially when you consider that the multiplied profits that the leverage gives you.

2. With CFDs, there’s interest charged for long positions that are held overnight. For short positions, the interest is paid to you. The amount of interest charged is usually a reference rate plus approximately 2%, and the interest paid is usually the same reference rate minus approximately 2%. And the reference rate is usually a major bank’s overnight interest rate.

For example, the interest rate charged for overnight held long positions may be 7.5% or 0.075 per annum. To calculate how much this is for a trade, we need to make it “pro rata”. That is, we’d need to divide the 0.075 by 365, multiply it buy the number of days in trade, then multiply it by the trade size. For example, for a trade size of $10 000, held for 14 days, the interest cost is about $28. Not a huge cost. For a short trade, the interest is paid to you, so will offset the cost rather than contribute to it.

So there you have it.

You now understand the benefits of trading CFDs and why they’re a trading instrument that allows people with a modest float to make very decent returns, as well as understand the costs involved with trading CFDs.

To learn more about CFD trading, watch out for part 2 of this article.

If you’d like to learn more now about CFD trading, go to this page with a comprehensive tutorial on CFD trading

How To Undertake Free Stock Research

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Stocks are not constant. They increase, decrease and disappear. In fact, investing in the stock market is a risky endeavor not to be taken lightly. You name it– you may start out happy with the high standing of your stocks and after an hour or two turn sad because your stocks have somehow lowered down below their original value. They may actually plunge, slamming down to the lowest values fathomable. You may emerge feeling depressed that you’ve lost an investment that you’ve…

Stocks are not constant. They increase, decrease and disappear. In fact, investing in the stock market is a risky endeavor not to be taken lightly. You name it– you may start out happy with the high standing of your stocks and after an hour or two turn sad because your stocks have somehow lowered down below their original value. They may actually plunge, slamming down to the lowest values fathomable. You may emerge feeling depressed that you’ve lost an investment that you’ve worked hard for and had much hope in. For this reason, investing in stocks can be both exhilarating and disconcerting.

To avoid such unsightly scenario, it would be best to do some research before investing all your hard earned savings on stocks. Stock investment is not for the faint hearted; it is for those smart individuals who knew how to manipulate the stock market for their advantage. These people know the importance of stock research and have spent a great deal of effort, time and even money just to come up with the best tactics that can help them in their quest for enormous stock returns.

The internet is a good venue for conducting research on stocks since you are able to access various online sources pertaining to stocks. The best thing about these sources is the fact that they are free. You might ask yourself why conducting stock research is critical. The answer is clear.

A stock research is conducted in order to know what stocks are favorable for investment and which stocks are to be avoided. It is also conducted to know the fluctuations in the stock market, this way businesses as well as private individuals are guided when to sell or when to buy additional stocks.

In addition, there are some free stock research providers online that offer their expertise by helping people reclaim their money from old bonds and stock certificates. Most of their clients are comprised of banks, estate and stock brokers, lawyers, and private individuals. Their services also include research on a company’s history and old stock shares dating centuries back.

There are also other free stock research providers that offer consultation services and at the same time assist members in choosing the stocks to invest on. These providers are stock investors themselves, what they actually do is to make the initial investment in a certain stock which they assess is profitable and then they let their members to also invest in the same stocks. If they gain their members will also gain. They religiously conduct stock researches in order to update their members when to sell, or when to buy additional stocks.

They also keep track of whatever changes in the stock market since they know that even a slight fluctuation in the stocks have significant effect on their investments as well as on the investments of their members—and the best thing about all of these services is that they are for free. If it’s your first time to invest in stocks it would be best to join such free stock research provider online. Keep in mind, time is critical since they accept only a limited amount of members.

James Dines Predicts a Buying Panic in Uranium

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Over the years, Dines successfully forecast the Internet mania, forecasting the giants of the tech boom, and forecasting the tech bust. A gold bug again, Dines also added uranium as the metal to watch over the coming years, saying, “This is my way of playing the whole coming energy boom.” We talked with Jim Dines about the “melt up” in the uranium sector.

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Over the years, Dines successfully forecast the Internet mania, forecasting the giants of the tech boom, and forecasting the tech bust. A gold bug again, Dines also added uranium as the metal to watch over the coming years, saying, “This is my way of playing the whole coming energy boom.”

Interviewer: You have been calling a bull market in uranium and, once again, you were the first voice in the now-growing crowd of uranium bulls.

James Dines: What a surprise.

Interviewer: Why are you bullish on uranium?

James Dines: It’s very important to get into a bull market early. The earlier, the better. That’s when the biggest percentage gains are made. That’s why we got into the Internets very early. We got stopped out in 2000. We were in cash for a year and then went to metals, as the way to play the China boom in 2001. We’re still in those. In 2002, we turned bullish on uranium as a unique way to play the coming boom in the whole energy complex.

Interviewer: But why uranium, as opposed to another type of metal?

James Dines: Basically, the western world demand is outpacing supply by about 300 million pounds a year. Global uranium use, excluding the growing usage by China and the former Soviet Union, is running at around 155 million pounds a year, as compared with global production of only around 94 million pounds. There are only about 500 customers for this stuff, not counting terrorists (joke). Because of that, it’s not a regular commodity. The public can’t go and buy uranium. In August 2003, there was a shocking blackout in Canada. The utilities were shaken. They realized when they don’t pay attention, the lights go out. That was a kick in the shin for utilities to begin immediate investment in the infrastructure of the electricity grid. But what is completely under the world’s radar is that nuclear plants are also concerned about a shortage of uranium. If they run out of uranium, the lights go out. You can’t switch to another fuel. You can’t toss another log on the fire, so to speak. Because of that, there is a growing panic among the buyers. That’s why I became what I’m calling myself: The Original Uranium Bug. And calling, or predicting, the coming Uranium Melt Up and buying panic.

Interviewer: A panic over uranium. Why do you say that?

James Dines: There’s going to be a buying panic. The bottom line is that in 2002, there were 441 nuclear reactors worldwide and another 34 under construction. Six new reactors began commercial production in 2002, three in China, two in South Korea and one in Japan. There was construction begun on six reactors in India and four in South Korea. There are more units coming in Finland, Russia, Ukraine, Romania, and Brazil. China announced recently they were going to build five more nuclear facilities. All of the governments of the world have been frightened by the talk of the difficulty in getting oil. I wouldn’t be surprised if more of them began building up their strategic oil reserves as the US has done. That would turbo the whole carbon-based fuel crisis higher. That makes nuclear more than a competitor. The price of uranium hit $7.10 on Christmas Day 2000, and then began a low, quiet and slow climb. The bottom line, which I outlined in my book on Mass Psychology, is that a new bull market must be invisible to the crowd. The corollary to that is when you see bandwagon on Wall Street, you are too late.

Interviewer: Some are making predictions of $50 uranium or even higher. What do you think?

James Dines: $50, $60, anything is possible. If you are running a utility and your choice was getting uranium at any price or having the lights go out, which would you do? This is my way of playing the whole coming energy boom. I think it’s the smartest way. This is unique. This metal is just not there. We’re just not going to have it.

Interviewer: How much of a role does Cameco (NYSE: CCJ) play in this market?

James Dines: They control the world’s largest high-grade reserves and low-cost operations, commanding position. They supply around 20 percent of the western world’s uranium. It’s America’s only uranium producer, in Wyoming and Nebraska. Around 20 percent of America’s energy is produced by nuclear. That accounts for around 35 percent of the western world’s consumption.

Interviewer: Is there any other way to play the uranium bull market?

James Dines: There is no other way to play it, as far I know of. The utilities buy the stuff so you can’t buy the metal. There is no other way. That’s why I like the uranium way of playing the energy boom. Some of my other predictions, like the Coming Age of the End of Petroleum ?this century is going to see the end of the petroleum age. We’re going to use it up. You have China and India coming onstream. You’ve got the automobile age coming to those two countries. Not even one percent of their citizens own cars yet. With all these cars coming onstream, suddenly everyone is frightened about nailing down their petroleum supplies. I don’t have to tell you how explosive the Middle East could be. Anything could happen there. A revolution in Saudi Arabia ?the most valuable real estate on the planet and it’s being gunned after by not just Al Qaedah, but every other big player on the land mass is saying, we need oil. That’s where the pool is. As that pool shrinks, it’s going to become more and more valuable. There will be more of a stampede into other energy sources. You already see it going into coal and natural gas. Unless they’re going to start putting windmills on cars, it’s over. When it will end, who knows?

Interviewer: Any guesses?

James Dines: You hear all kinds of guesses. There were only so many dinosaurs and ferns. It’s finite, and it is dirt cheap. People snivel at $1.67 for gasoline, but they pay $10/gallon for Gatorade. White-out is $25/gallon. Evian is $21/gallon. Pepto-Bismol is $123/gallon. People have no concept of how high oil is going to go. Oil is going to go through the roof. A sound energy portfolio should certainly include some oils. But to me, the center of the chessboard is going to be uranium. It’s going to get a lot worse before it gets better. Once you start getting sky-high prices for oil, there’s no limit to what uranium could do. Even with an accelerated drilling program, it’s going to take years to bring it on. And they haven’t even started it yet. There’s an energy crisis coming of the first magnitude.
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James Dines, editor of The Dines Letter since 1960, has been making recommendations to investors for over 40 years. Recommendations of The Dines Letter are based on mass psychology, technical and fundamental economics thus studying both the company and investor behavior. Mr. Dines’ insights have gained him a reputation as a well-renowned, highly respected and regarded investment advisor.

Crush the Stock Market Without Trading Stocks

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Learn a trading system that will make you richer than if you’d bought Google as an IPO. Foreign Exchange trading is a smart, lucrative and accessible way to invest your money; as long as you know what you’re doing. Here are the Five Steps you need to take to start getting monster returns by tradin

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Do you look at the stock market and wish you’d bought some Google stock back when it was first offered for $104? You’d have gained nearly 300% on that investment in the first year – that’s roughly 9.2% each month! That’s a Wall Street level of success!

Imagine if I could show you an investment opportunity that could easily give you over 14% monthly? What if 21.5% per month was within reach? These yearly returns of anywhere from 500% to 1000% are possible for anyone who has the initiative to go out and get them. That’s 2-4X MORE than GOOGLE, one of the fastest growing stocks IN HISTORY! We’re talking about an investment opportunity where your returns will crush even the top gainers of the stock market. Are you starting to get curious about how these numbers are attainable?

You can beat the stock game by playing a different game, the Foreign Exchange trading game. Also referred to as Forex, the Foreign Exchange market is where one country’s currency is traded for another’s. You can buy €1100 Euros for $1000 US Dollars while the exchange rate is at 1.1 Euros/Dollar. Then you can sell the Euros back to dollars for $1100 (and a nice $100 profit) if the exchange rate moves to 1 Euro/Dollar.

$100 may be nice, but that 1% return on the $1000 doesn’t sound like the path to your 500% returns, does it? Here’s how that 1% gets its power: Leverage. With Forex, if you have $300 in your account, you can control a $10,000 trade. That makes your money a lot more powerful than the $1-$1 control you get in the stock market! If you’re thinking that you can lose more money this way too, just read on, you’ll learn why that won’t happen.

Consider this: The Foreign Exchange market has a DAILY trading volume of around $1.5 trillion dollars. That’s 30 times larger than the combined volume of all U.S. equity markets (that includes the NASDAQ and NYSE). This is an untapped resource, and you’re about to learn five simple steps towards taking your share out of that market and into your pocket.

1. Get Educated!
As with all things, the more you know about trading, the more likely you are to success. A little effort spent learning up front can save you hundreds and thousands of dollars of mistakes later.

2. Have a Strategy!
A simple repeatable system can turn trading into a low-risk mechanical system. Know when you should trade, how often you should trade, how much money to spend per trade, when to cut your losses, and when to take your profits. Push the right buttons at the right times, and you’ll make money.

3. Practice Makes Perfect!
Most Forex brokers will allow you to sign up for a practice account, where you can trade imaginary money until you’ve solidified your winning strategy. Don’t risk your hard-earned cash until you’ve proven that you’ll succeed

4. Scrape Together $300
That’s 2 months of brown-bagging lunch instead of buying it; or a few months of cutting down on the daily coffee-shop visits. If you start now, by the time you’ve learned a strategy and perfected it on your practice account, you’ll be ready with your $300 to start earning real money. More money is always better, but $300 is the minimum you’ll need to get started.

5. Go Out and Succeed!
By the time you get to Step 5, you KNOW you will succeed, and you’ll spring out of bed every day ready to make your profit. Some days you’ll lose a little money, but you won’t worry. Your strategy allows you to lose a little money from time to time; you proved that losing money periodically wasn’t the end of the world when you practiced; you’ll get up tomorrow and make it back by following your proven strategy.

Starting with your $300, if you made “Google Gains”, you’d have $862 in a year. That’s not bad. With Forex gains, though, you could easily turn your $300 into $1500-$3000 in a year! Who need the stock market?!?

Saving the best for last, here’s the shocking truth: The 500-1000% yearly returns are possible, but with a smarter strategy you could turn your $300 into over $10,000 in less than a year without increasing your risks! Best of all, you can do all of this over the Internet without leaving home. That’s 3000% while wearing pajamas. With these kinds of returns, you could realistically quit your job and trade full-time!

If you could use more money if your life (and lets face it, we all can), you owe it to yourself to learn more about Foreign Exchange trading.

Desperately Seeking Diversity, Simplicity

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If you think choosing the right investments is complicated, you’re not alone. Investors looking for simplicity and portfolio diversification are driving demand for all-in-one investment options.

Desperately Seeking Diversity, Simplicity

If you think choosing the right investments is complicated, you’re not alone. Investors looking for simplicity and portfolio diversification are driving demand for all-in-one investment options.

According to Strategic Insights, a market research firm serving the mutual fund industry, more than two-thirds of the $150 billion that investors added to mutual funds in 2004 landed in asset allocation products.

So what exactly are these all-in-one investments? In a nutshell, they are broadly diversified, professionally managed funds that can serve as a complete portfolio. They come in primarily two flavors.

* Lifestyle or life-cycle funds focus on a particular level of risk. These can be an appropriate choice for investors who want a diversified core investment solution that offers a specific level of risk and potential reward.

* Age- or target-year-based funds target a specific investment time frame or goal. As each fund’s target year approaches, its exposure to stocks (and corresponding risk) will decrease and its exposure to bonds and money market investments will increase to reduce risk and preserve capital. These funds can be suitable choices for investors seeking a core investment strategy for retirement planning or who have a set number of years to invest.

American Century currently offers both types. My Retirement Portfolios is a series of five age- or target-year-based funds, while One Choice Portfolios is a separate series of five risk-based funds.

Both portfolios are made up of American Century stock funds, bond funds and money market funds. The portfolios’ managers adjust asset classes and weightings to emphasize investments they believe provide the most favorable outlook for achieving results.

Doug Lockwood is a certified financial planner for American Century Investments.

Ask for a prospectus that contains investment objectives, risks, charges and expenses, and other information that should be carefully read and considered before investing.

Greed And Fear

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Greed and fear is what makes the markets move.

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Greed and fear are the major players in the stock market. These two emotions are the
driving force behind almost all market participants – Institutional mangers, stockbrokers,
Investors, traders and yourself.

You might be saying to yourself that greed and fear will never get in the way of my trading,
but believe it or not they will be. It is not something to be ashamed of. It is something you
have to admit to, come face to face with, If you are to become a successful stock trader or
investor.

What do greed and fear look like in the stock market trading arena?

You have been watching a particular stock for some time now. It has set up perfectly, so you pull the trigger. You bought it at the perfect price and now it is moving higher just as you thought it would.

Now greed steps up to the plate and says to you, this is going to be a rocket ship. So you buy some more shares. Or your stock moves a few points and goes passed the price that you decided to get out. Greed tells you this baby is going higher tomorrow so you hang on.

When stocks make strong moves to the upside greed from all the cumulative market participants joins the move.

Stock prices usually fall faster then they go up, and when this happens, fear now steps up to the plate.

Lets look at the example above, where your stock went through your get out price and you held on because greed was by your side. The next morning the stock price gaps down. Their is heavy selling all morning long. Greed is telling you to hang in there the price will come back. The price keeps going down, now you get a knot in your gut, and your knuckles are turning white. Fear is now by your side, but by now it is to late, your nice profit has turned into a loss.

Everyone goes through this until they have mastered the ugly faces of greed and fear. Master this and you are well on your way to becoming a successful stock trader.

Buy To Cover Orders With Stock Trading

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If you have always wanted to know more about this topic, then get ready because we have all the information you can handle.

Within the buy to cover orders, there are four options in which to place against your stock purchases. When you buy to cover on a stock order, you are in agreement that you will buy the stock at the latest share price; however, because there is a lag between the time you approve to buy the stock and the actual transaction, a price difference may occur…

buy to cover orders, stock trading, stock market

If you have always wanted to know more about this topic, then get ready because we have all the information you can handle.

Within the buy to cover orders, there are four options in which to place against your stock purchases. When you buy to cover on a stock order, you are in agreement that you will buy the stock at the latest share price; however, because there is a lag between the time you approve to buy the stock and the actual transaction, a price difference may occur. You could end up paying more than anticipated for each stock, or a considerably lesser amount per stock, which is what you are eager for. You can also buy to cover limit orders, which guarantees that you pay no more than the set limit price. However, if stock prices hold above the limit buy price, this type of buy to cover order will never be executed.

This type of transaction is mainly used by investors who want to get into a certain market. You may also want to buy, to cover stop orders in which case the stop orders become simple stock orders as soon as the value is at or above the stop price. This type of order is used to get you out of an unfavourable stock so that you will not have lost any profits. And, finally, you may want to buy to cover a limit order that converts to limit order only when the share value is at or above the stop price. You have to know each of the buy to cover orders so that you can make educated decisions about your investments.

From one decision period to the next in the stock market game, the markets can move up and down non-stop, which means that prices of shares are at a frequent changing point. You may think about purchasing a certain stock that is at $5 per share, and in the next day, the value per share has risen to $15 per share.

This is where the betting of the stock market comes into play. By erudition the advantages of the buy to cover orders, you can multiply your odds of earning money on the stock exchange rather than of losing money. The most obvious benefit to the entire buy to cover options is that they are in place to make you money, when executed properly. For example, you would not perform a stop loss on a stock that has steadily increased over a 5 month period. If you did this, you would force yourself to squander money to buy the stock in order to cover your mistake. You choose to buy 175 shares of stocks from Albertson’s, a grocery store chain, at $75 each, for an entire investment of $13,125. Over a four month period, you observe that the stocks have gained in profit, and you would like to do something to guarantee that you keep this earned profit. Not knowing better, you put a stop loss of $45 per stock without consulting with your stockbroker. From that position forward, if your stock decreases to $45 per stock, you have to sell it, and any earlier earned profit is null and void. The only chance you have in getting back that profit is if you are swift enough in the non-stop stock market game, to buy the Albertson’s stocks before somebody else does. However, even if you are able to do this, you have still suffered a great loss monetarily.

Educate yourself in the stock market game.

As with any game, there is some form of jeopardy involved, however, when you play the stock market game, you can avert a great deal of distress by simply taking the time to acquire knowledge about all types of orders you are able to place on your stocks. If you require help educating yourself about the types of orders to place on your stocks, you should consult your stockbroker in order to take professional advice before taking matters into your own hands, inevitably forcing yourself to lose some of your invested money’s profit. Thus, it is absurd to invest your hard earned money into any program before you know all the data necessary to make a well-informed, educated judgment.

If you could take the main ideas from this article and put them into a list, you would a great overview of what we have learned.

An Analysis Of Overstock.com (OSTK)

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Why is a value investor writing about an unprofitable internet company? Because value investing is about finding dollars that trade for fifty cents; with a market cap of less than 75% of sales, Overstock.com (OSTK) looks like it may be exactly that.

But isn’t it too risky?

The greatest risk in any investment is the risk of overpaying. So, the real question is: what is Overstock worth? I think it’s worth at least $1.5 billion. With Overstock’s market cap currently sitti…

overstock.com, overstock, OSTK, (OSTK), overstock (OSTK), stock, stocks, stock market, investing,

Why is a value investor writing about an unprofitable internet company? Because value investing is about finding dollars that trade for fifty cents; with a market cap of less than 75% of sales, Overstock.com (OSTK) looks like it may be exactly that.

But isn’t it too risky?

The greatest risk in any investment is the risk of overpaying. So, the real question is: what is Overstock worth? I think it’s worth at least $1.5 billion. With Overstock’s market cap currently sitting around $500 million, my valuation certainly looks far fetched. But, there’s only one way to know for sure. Let’s take apart my argument piece by piece, and see if any of my assumptions are unreasonable.

First Assumption: Over the next five years, Overstock will neither generate truly free cash flow nor consume cash. In other words, its free cash flow margin will average 0%. Cash generation in some years will exactly offset cash consumption in other years. Obviously, this assumption is unreasonable, because there is almost no chance the cash flows will exactly offset.

That’s not a problem if it turns out Overstock does generate some free cash flow over the next five years. In that case, my assumption simply errs on the side of caution. If, however, it turns out Overstock actually consumes cash over the next five years, there is a problem ?possibly a very big problem. So, which scenario is more likely?

Overstock’s revenues are growing quickly. Gross margins look solid at 13.3% in 2004 and 14.9% over the last twelve months. Overstock’s unprofitability is the result of its selling, general, and administrative expenses (SG&A) which have been growing exponentially. Will these expenses continue to grow? Yes, but not as fast as revenues. Over the last twelve months, Overstock’s spending on cap ex has been 5.6% of sales. That number is an aberration. In the long run, spending on cap ex should not exceed 3% of sales. Considering the business Overstock is in and the expected sales growth, the company will, more likely than not, generate some free cash flow over the next five years. Therefore, the assumption that Overstock will be cash flow neutral over the next five years is not overly optimistic.

Second Assumption: Over the next five years, Overstock’s sales will grow by 15% annually. Is this an unreasonable assumption? Again, I don’t think it is. Very few industries are expected to grow as fast as eCommerce. Overstock’s revenue growth in 2003 and 2004 was over 100%. In the past year, that growth has slowed. However, it is still closer to 50% than it is to 15%. Overstock isn’t in a cyclical business. So, there is no reason to believe current sales are abnormally high.

Also, all that spending on advertising is increasing consumers?awareness of Overstock. A review of Overstock’s traffic data shows it has not only been gaining more visitors; it has also been climbing the ranks of the most popular web sites. While it is a long, long way from the Amazons, Yahoos, and eBays of the world (and will never reach those heights) Overstock is becoming a well known internet destination. This fact was most clearly evident in the weeks leading up to Christmas. Shoppers who visited Overstock during the holiday season obviously know it exists, and may very well return at some other point in the year. Analysts are predicting very high growth rates for Overstock; however, they are also recommending you sell the stock. I don’t put any weight in their estimates. But, for the other reasons given, I believe the assumption that Overstock will grow sales at 15% a year for the next five years is not unreasonable.

Third Assumption: Six to ten years from today, Overstock will have a free cash flow margin of 3%. Ten years from today, Overstock’s free cash flow margin will rise to 4% and remain at that level. Now, of all the assumptions I’ve made, this one is the most questionable. Sure, Amazon has that kind of free cash flow margin, but Overstock isn’t Amazon, and it never will be Amazon. Overstock’s gross margins are less than Amazon’s. In fact, Overstock’s gross margins are less than Wal ?Mart’s. However, Overstock’s fixed costs will eat up a much smaller portion of its sales than is the case over at Wal – Mart.

If you compare Overstock to other online retailers, you will see that if Overstock does experience strong sales growth, a 3% free cash flow margin six years from now is not unreasonable. I assumed Overstock’s sustainable free cash flow margin will be 4%. There’s a case to be made that 4% is too high. I won’t make that case, because I don’t believe in it. Remember, that 4% number comes ten years out. That gives Overstock plenty of time to grow sales and thus reduce SG&A as a percentage of sales.

Fourth Assumption: Six to ten years from today, Overstock will be growing sales by 12% a year; eleven to fifteen years from today, Overstock will be growing sales by 8% a year; thereafter, Overstock will grow sales by 4% a year. Let’s see what this really means. According to these assumptions, Overstock’s sales will be as follows:

Today: $707 million

2011: $1.59 billion

2016: $2.71 billion

2021: $3.83 billion

2026: $4.66 billion

2031: $5.67 billion

2036: $6.90 billion

Seven billion dollars is not an unreasonable target ?if you have thirty years to achieve it. To put that figure in perspective, Amazon.com currently has sales of about $8 billion. So, even after thirty years, these assumptions don’t lead to Overstock reaching the same size as today’s Amazon. Don’t forget these numbers assume some inflation. For instance, if inflation averages 3% a year over the next thirty years, Overstock’s projected $6.90 billion in sales only translates to $2.84 billion in today’s dollars. So, these assumptions only lead to a fourfold increase in Overstock’s real sales over a period of thirty years. I think that’s pretty reasonable.

If you take these four assumptions together, you get a value of $1.5 billion for Overstock. Today, Mr. Market is offering it for $500 million ?that’s why I’m writing about an unprofitable internet company.

5 Tips for Investing in Penny Stocks

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Investing in penny stocks provides traders with the opportunity to dramatically increase their profits, however, it also provides an equal opportunity to lose your trading capital quickly. These 5 tips will help you lower the risk of one of the riskiest investment vehicles.

penny stocks, stock market, investing

Investing in penny stocks provides traders with the opportunity to dramatically increase their profits, however, it also provides an equal opportunity to lose your trading capital quickly. These 5 tips will help you lower the risk of one of the riskiest investment vehicles.

1. Penny Stocks are a penny for a reason.
While we all dream about investing in the next Microsoft or the next Home Depot, the truth is, the odds of you finding that once in a decade success story are slim. These companies are either starting out and purchased a shell company because it was cheaper than an IPO, or they simply do not have a business plan compelling enough to justify investment banker’s money for an IPO. This doesn’t make them a bad investment, but it should make you be realistic about the kind of company that you are investing in.

2. Trading Volumes
Look for a consistent high volume of shares being traded. Looking at the average volume can be misleading. If ABC trades 1 million shares today, and doesn’t trade for the rest of the week, the daily average will appear to be 200 000 shares. In order to get in and out at an acceptable rate of return, you need consistent volume. Also look at the number of trades per day. Is it 1 insider selling or buying? Liquidity should be the first thing to look at. If there is no volume, you will end up holding “dead money”, where the only way of selling shares is to dump at the bid, which will put more selling pressure, resulting in an even lower sell price.

3. Does the company know how to make a profit?
While its not unusual to see a start up company run at a loss, its important to look at why they are losing money. Is it manageable? Will they have to seek further financing (resulting in dilution of your shares) or will they have to seek a joint partnership that favors the other company?

If your company knows how to make a profit, the company can use that money to grow their business, which increases shareholder value. You have to do some research to find these companies, but when you do, you lower the risk of a loss of your capital, and increase the odds of a much higher return.

4. Have an entry and exit plan – and stick to it.
Penny stocks are volitile. They will quickly move up, and move down just as quickly. Remember, if you buy a stock at $0.10 and sell it at $0.12, that represents a 20% return on your investment. A 2 cent decline leaves you with a 20% loss. Many stocks trade in this range on a daily basis. If your investment capital is $10 000, a 20% loss is a $2000 loss. Do this 5 times and you’re out of money. Keep your stops close. If you get stopped out, move on to the next opportunity. The market is telling you something, and whether you want to admit it or not, its usually best to listen.

If your plan was to sell at $0.12 and it jumps to $0.13, either take the 30% gain, or better still, place your stop at $0.12. Lock in your profits while not capping the upside potential.

5. How did you find out about the stock?
Most people find out about penny stocks through a mailing list. There are many excellent penny stock newsletters, however, there are just as many who are pumping and dumping. They, along with insiders, will load up on shares, then begin to pump the company to unsuspecting newsletter subscribers. These subscribers buy while insiders are selling. Guess who wins here.

Not all newsletters are bad. Having worked in the industry for the last 8 years, I have seen my share of unscrupulous companies and promoters. Some are paid in shares, sometimes in restricted shares (an agreement whereby the shares cannot be sold for a predetermined period of time), others in cash.

How to spot the good companies from the bad? Simply subscribe, and track the investments. Was there a legitimate opportunity to make money? Do they have a track record of providing subscribers with great opportunities? You’ll start to notice quickly if you have subscribed to a good newsletter or not.

One other tip I would offer to you is not to invest more than 20% of your overall portfolio in penny stocks. You are investing to make money and preserve capital to fight another battle. If you put too much of your capital at risk, you increase the odds of losing your capital. If that 20% grows, you’ll have more than enough money to make a healthy rate of return. Penny stocks are risky to begin with, why put your money more at risk?