A dealer who specializes in a specific security, such as a bond or stock, is said to make a market in that security. That means the dealer is ready to buy or sell at least one round lot of the security at its publicly quoted price. Other broker-dealers turn to a market maker when they want to buy or sell that particular security either for their own account or for a client’s account. Electronic markets, such as NASDAQ, tend to have several market makers in a particular security. The overall effect of multiple market makers is greater liquidity in the marketplace and more competitive pricing.
A managed account is a portfolio of stocks or bonds chosen and managed by a professional investment manager who makes the buy and sell decisions. Each managed account has an investment objective, and each manager oversees multiple individual accounts invested in the same basic portfolio to meet the same objective.While managed accounts resemble mutual funds in some ways, with a managed account you own individual securities rather than shares of a common fund. You may also be able to request that the manager avoid certain investments, which you can’t do with a mutual fund. And, through your broker you might ask the manager to sell certain holdings in your account to realize capital gains or losses. There are no phantom gains in managed accounts. Those gains can occur if a mutual fund realizes a profit from selling an investment and credits you with a capital gain even if there's no actual increase in your account value.However, the minimum investment is usually substantially higher for a managed account — often $100,000. Plus, the annual fees, which are included in the amount you pay the financial professional who recommends the account, may be higher than the fees on a mutual fund of similar value.
A management fee is the percentage of your account value that an investment company or manager charges to handle your account. Fees for passively managed index funds typically cost less than the fees for actively managed funds, though fees differ significantly from one fund company to another.
Margin is the minimum amount of collateral — in either cash or securities — you must have in your margin account to buy on margin, sell short, or invest in certain derivatives. The initial margin requirement is set by federal law and varies from product to product. For example, to buy stock on margin, you must have at least 50% of the purchase price in your account.After the initial transaction, maintenance rules set by the self-regulatory organizations, such as the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) and NASD, apply.Under those rules, you must have a minimum of 25% of the total market value of the margined investments in your account at all times. Individual firms may set their maintenance requirement higher — at 30% or 35%, for example.If your equity in the account falls below the maintenance level, you’ll receive a margin call for additional collateral to bring the account value back above the minimum level.
Margin accounts are brokerage accounts that allow you a much wider range of transactions than cash accounts. In a cash account you must pay for every purchase in full at the time of the transaction. In a margin account, you can on margin, sell short, and purchase certain types of derivative products.Before you can open a margin account, however, you must satisfy the firm’s requirements for margin transactions. You must also agree in writing to the terms of the account, and make a minimum deposit of at least $2,000 in cash or qualifying securities. If you buy on margin or sell short, you pay interest on the cash or the value of the securities you borrow through your margin account and must eventually repay the loan. Because both types of transactions use leverage, they offer the possibility of making a substantially larger profit than you could realize by using only your own money. But because you must repay the loan plus interest even if you lose money on the investment, using a margin account also exposes you to more risk than a cash account.
To protect the margin loans they make, brokers issue a margin call if your equity in your margin account falls below the required maintenance level of at least 25%. If you get a margin call, you must deposit additional cash or securities to meet the call, bringing the balance of the account back up to the required level. If you don’t meet the call, securities in your account may be sold, and your broker repaid in full. For example, if you buy 1,000 shares on margin when they are seliing at $10 a share, and the price falls to $7 a share, your equity would be $2,000 ($7,000 market value minus $5,000 loan is $2,000).That's 28.6% of the market value. If your brokerage firm has a maintenance requirement of 30%, you would receive a margin call to bring your equity back to the required level — in this case $2,100, which is 30% of $7,000.You might also get a margin call if you trade futures contracts and the value of your account drops below the required maintenance level. However, margin requirements for futures are different than for stock.
The margin requirement is the minimum amount the Federal Reserve, in Regulation T, requires you to deposit in a margin account before you can trade through that account. Currently this minimum, or initial margin, is $2,000, or 50% of the purchase price of securities you buy on margin, or 50% of the amount that you receive for selling securities short.In addition, there's a minimum maintenance requirement, a minimum of 25% and often more, of the market value of the securities in the account. The maintenance requirement is set by the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), the National Association of Securities Dealers (NASD), and the individual brokerage firms.
Because the US income tax system is progressive, your tax rate rises as your taxable income rises through two or more tax brackets. Your marginal tax rate is the rate you pay on the taxable income that falls into the highest bracket you reach: 10%, 15%, 25%, 28%, 33%, or 35%. For instance, if you have a taxable income that falls into three brackets, your would pay at the 10% rate on the first portion, the 15% rate on the next portion, and the 25% federal tax on only the third portion. Your marginal rate would be 25%.However, your marginal tax rate is higher than your effective tax rate, which is the average rate you pay on your combined taxable income. That’s because you’re only paying tax at your marginal, or maximum, rate on the top portion of your income.Keep in mind that your marginal tax rate only applies to tax on ordinary income and does not take into account other tax liabilities — such as realized long-term capital gains which are taxed at your long capital gains rate — or tax credits for which you may be eligible, which may reduce the actual tax you pay.
When an investment is marked to the market, its value is adjusted to reflect the current market price. With mutual funds, for example, marking to the market means that a fund's net asset value (NAV) is recalculated each day based on the closing prices of the fund's underlying investments. With a margin account to buy futures contracts, the value of the contracts in the account is recalculated at least once a day to determine whether it meets the firm’s margin requirements. If that value falls below the minimum specified, you get a margin call and must add assets to your account to return it to the required level.
A markdown is the amount a broker-dealer earns on the sale of a fixed-income security and is the difference between the sales price and what the seller realizes on the sale. The markdown may or may not appear in the commission column or be stated separately on a confirmation statement. A markdown is determined, in part, by the demand for the security in the marketplace. A broker-dealer may charge a smaller markdown if the security can be resold at a favorable markup. The term markdown also refers more generally to a reduced price on assets that a seller wants to unload and will sell at less than the original offering price.
Traditionally, a securities market was a place — such as the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) — where members met to buy and sell securities. But in the age of electronic trading, the term market is used to describe the organized activity of buying and selling securities, even if those transactions do not occur at a specific location.
Market capitalization is a measure of the value of a company, calculated by multiplying the number of either the outstanding shares or the floating shares by the current price per share. For example, a company with 100 million shares of floating stock that has a current market value of $25 a share would have a market capitalization of $2.5 billion.Outstanding shares include all the stock held by shareholders, while floating shares are those outstanding shares that actually are available to trade.Market capitalization, or cap, is one of the criteria investors use to choose a varied portfolio of stocks, which are often categorized as small-, mid-, and large-cap. Generally, large-cap stocks are considered the least volatile, and small caps the most volatile.The term market capitalization is sometimes used interchangeably with market value, in explaining, for example, how a particular index is weighted or where a company stands in relation to other companies.
Market cycles are the recurrent patterns of expansion and contraction that characterize the securities and real estate markets. While the pace of these recurrent cycles of gain and loss isn’t predictable, certain economic conditions affect the markets in fairly reliable ways.For instance, stock and real estate usually gain value when the economy is healthy and growing, whereas bonds often do well during periods of rising interest rates. And during times of economic uncertainty, investors often prefer to put their money into short-term cash equivalent investments, such as US Treasury bills.The cyclical pattern in one type of asset sometimes works in opposition to what’s occurring at the same time in another asset class or subclass. For example, when the stock market is gaining value, the bond market may be flat or falling, or vice versa. Similarly, sometimes large-company stocks increase in value faster than small caps, but sometimes the opposite is true. But while the ups and downs of the markets are inevitable, it’s also true that it’s virtually impossible to pinpoint the peak of a rising market or the bottom of a falling market except in hindsight.
A broker-dealer who is prepared to buy or sell a specific security — such as a bond or at least one round lot of a stock — at a publicly quoted price, is called a market maker in that security. Other brokers buy or sell specific securities through market makers, who may maintain inventories of those securities. There is often more than one market maker in a particular security, and they bid against each other, helping to keep the marketplace liquid. The Stock Market and the corporate and municipal bond markets are market maker markets. In contrast, on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) there's a single specialist to handle transactions in each security.
When you tell your broker to buy or sell a security at the market, or current market price, you are giving a market order. The broker initiates the trade immediately. The amount you pay or receive is determined by the number of shares and the current bid or ask price. Market orders, which account for the majority of trades, differ from limit orders to buy or sell, in which a price is specified.
A security's market price is the price at which it is currently trading in an organized market. A good indication of the market price of a stock selling on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) or the NASDAQ Stock Market is the last reported transaction price. However, if you give a market order to buy securities, then market price means the current ask, or offer. If you give a market order to sell, market price means the current bid.
Market risk, also known as systematic risk, is risk that results from the characteristic behavior of an entire market or asset class. One example of this type of risk is that the market prices of existing bonds generally fall as interest rates rise because investors are not willing to pay par value to own a bond that pays less interest than other bonds available in the marketplace. So if you wanted to sell your existing bonds, you would probably have to settle for less than you paid to buy them.Asset allocation is generally considered the antidote for market risk, since if your portfolio includes multiple asset classes it tends to be less vulnerable to a downturn in any one class.
Market timing means trying to anticipate the point at which a market has hit, or is about to hit, a high or low turning point, based on historical patterns, technical analysis, or other factors. Market timers try to buy as the market turns up and sell before the market turns down. It’s the anticipated change in direction rather than the amount of time that passes between those changes that’s significant for these investors.The term is sometimes used in a negative sense to refer to a trading strategy that aims for quick profits by taking advantage of short-term changes in securities’ prices. Market timers, sometimes known as day traders, trade electronically. They try to buy low and sell high by taking advantage of second-to-second or minute-to-minute changes in the financial marketplace. They base decisions on information such as a forecast on interest rates or a sell-off in a particular market sector.
The market value of a stock or bond is the current price at which that security is trading. In a more general sense, if an item has not been priced for sale, its fair market value is the amount a buyer and seller agree upon. That's assuming that both know what the item is worth and neither is being forced to complete the transaction.
When you buy securities from a broker-dealer or market maker, you pay a markup. The markup is either a percentage of the selling price or a flat fee, over and above the amount it cost the broker-dealer to purchase the security. The amount of this markup, or spread, is the broker-dealer’s profit and depends in part on the demand for that security or others like it. For example, if investors are buying up certain types of bonds, a broker-dealer may increase the markup for bonds in that category. You might say that the broker-dealer acquires the security at wholesale price and sells it to you at retail price. The difference is the markup. If the markup doesn’t appear on the confirmation statement, you can ask the broker-dealer about the markup amount. Or, you can compare the prices that different broker-dealers quote for the same security or the price being quoted for the security on the Internet. The differences in price generally reflect the differences in markups.
A matching contribution is money your employer adds to your salary reduction retirement savings account, such as a 401(k). It's usually a percentage of the amount you contribute up to a cap that the employer sets, such as 50% of your contribution up to 5% of your salary. The matching amount and any earnings are tax deferred until you withdraw them from your account. In most plans, employers are not required to match contributions, but may do so if they wish. Employers also determine, within federal guidelines, how long you have to work for the company in order to be fully vested in the matching contributions.
Matrix trading occurs when the yield spread between two categories of bonds with different levels of risk is temporarily inconsistent with what that spread would normally be, prompting traders to try to capitalize on an unusual situation by initiating a bond swap. For example, such a swap might involve long-term corporate bonds with high ratings and those with low ratings or bonds with longer terms and those with shorter terms.
A bond or other loan that must be repaid comes due on its maturity date. On that date, the full face value of the bond (and sometimes the final interest payment) must be paid in full to the bondholder. Certificates of deposit (CDs) also have maturity dates on which you may withdraw the principal and interest without penalty or roll over the money into a new CD. Other debt instruments, such as mortgage-backed securities, pay back their principal over the life of the debt, similar to the way a mortgage is amortized, or paid down. While these instruments also have a maturity date, that date is when the last installment payment of the loan as well as the last interest payment is due.
Mediation is an informal, voluntary method of resolving disputes, in which the parties in conflict meet with a trained, independent third party to come up with a solution that’s satisfactory to everyone involved. For example, if you have a problem with your broker that you can’t resolve directly with the firm, you can file a request for mediation with NASD, which oversees brokerage firms and has over 900 trained mediators to help resolve disputes. Mediation is considered less expensive, less formal, and less confrontational than arbitration or lawsuits. But both parties must agree to use the process. While you may retain a legal adviser during mediation, any resolution will be crafted with your direct involvement, which is usually not the case with arbitration. Also, unlike arbitration, mediation is nonbinding, which means that if you’re not happy with the outcome, you can stop the process, and either drop the issue or move to more formal proceedings.
Medicaid is federal government program run by the individual states. It’s designed to provide assistance to people who can’t afford skilled or custodial healthcare. There are strict financial standards governing who qualifies for assistance, though there is significant variation from state to state in the way the program is managed.
Medicare is a federal government insurance program designed to provide healthcare coverage for people 65 or older, certain disabled people, and people with chronic kidney disease. Anyone who qualifies for Social Security is automatically eligible for Medicare at 65. Part A, which covers hospital and certain other costs, is provided when you enroll. You can also sign up for Part B, which covers doctor visits and related costs, and Part D, which covers prescription medicines, at the same time. You pay a separate premium for both Part B and Part D. The Part B premium is set annually and carries surcharges for people whose incomes are above the annual ceilings. Your Part D premium is determined by the private insurer plan you select. If you postpone applying for Parts B and D and don’t have equivalent or better coverage — called creditable coverage — from another plan, you face a permanent surcharge when you do enroll.You may also have a choice between Original Medicare, which is a fee-for-service plan run by the government, or a Medicare Advantage plan if one is available where you live. Medicare Advantage plans are private insurer plans.
When two or more companies consolidate by exchanging common stock, and the resulting single company replaces the old companies, the consolidation is described as a merger. The shareholders of the old companies receive prorated shares in the new company. A merger is typically a tax-free transaction, meaning that shareholders owe no capital gains or lost taxes on the stock that is being exchanged.A merger is different from an acquisition, in which one company purchases, or takes over, the assets of another. The acquiring company continues to function and the acquired company ceases to exist. Shareholders of the acquired company receive shares in the new company in exchange for their old shares. Despite their differences, mergers and acquisitions are invariably linked, often simply described as M&As.
A micro-cap stock is one with a smaller market capitalization — sometimes much smaller — than stocks described as small-caps. (Market capitalization is figured by multiplying the current market value by the number of outstanding shares.) The cut-off for deciding that a stock belongs in one category or the other is arbitrary. However, the capitalization thresholds currently being suggested for micro-caps range from $50 million to $150 million. Micro-caps are not only the smallest of the publicly traded corporations, but they are also the most volatile. That's partly because they often lack the reserves that may allow a larger company to weather rough periods. And, there are generally relatively few shares of a micro-cap company, so a large transaction may affect the stock's price quite a bit. In contrast, a similar transaction might not affect the stock price of a larger company that had many more shares in the market quite as much.
A mid-cap stock is one issued by a corporation whose market capitalization falls in a range between $2 billion and $10 billion, making it larger than a small-cap stock but smaller than a large-cap stock. Market capitalization is figured by multiplying the number of either the outstanding or the floating shares by the current share price. Investors tend to buy mid-cap stocks for their growth potential. Their prices are typically lower than those of large-caps. At the same time, these companies tend to be less volatile than small-caps, in part because they have more resources with which to weather an economic downturn.
A minimum finance charge is a fee collected by a credit card issuer each billing period. It applies when the actual finance charge you owe isn’t equal to or larger than this minimum. For example, if the minimum finance charge is 50 cents, and you owe $5 in finance charges, the minimum would not apply. But if you had no other finance charges, you’d owe the 50 cents. Not all issuers impose a minimum finance charge, so if you regularly pay your bill in full and on time, you may prefer an issuer who does not charge this fee.
A minimum required distribution is the smallest amount you can take each year from your retirement savings plan once you've reached the mandatory withdrawal age.There are MRDs for 401(k) plans, 403(b) plans, and traditional IRAs, and the maximum age you can reach before they start is usually 70 1/2. If you take less than the required minimum, you owe a 50% penalty on the amount you should have taken.You calculate your MRD by dividing your account balance at the end of your plan's fiscal year — often December 31 — by a distribution period based on your life expectancy. If your spouse is your beneficiary and more than ten years younger than you are, you can use a longer distribution period than you can in all other circumstances.
All shareholders whose combined shares represent less than half of the total outstanding shares issued by a corporation have a minority interest in that corporation. In fact, in many cases, the combined holdings of the minority shareholders are considerably less than half of the total shares. In another example, in a partnership, any partner who has a smaller percentage than another partner is said to have a minority interest. Under normal circumstances, it is difficult for those with a minority interest to have any real influence on corporate policy.
In making investment decisions, adherents of modern portfolio theory focuses on potential return in relation to potential risk. The strategy is to evaluate and select individual securities as part of an overall portfolio rather than solely for their own strengths or weaknesses as an investment.Asset allocation is a primary tactic according to theory practitioners. That's because it allows investors to create portfolios to get the strongest possible return without assuming a greater level of risk than they are comfortable with. Another tenet of portfolio theory is that investors must be rewarded, in terms of realizing a greater return, for assuming greater risk. Otherwise, there would be little motivation to make investments that might result in a loss of principal.
Your modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) is your adjusted gross income (AGI) plus deductions, such as college loan interest and contributions to a deductible individual retirement account (IRA), which you may qualify to take if your MAGI is less than the annual ceilings set by Congress. Other deductions, such as alimony, don’t have income limits.For example, suppose you’re single, have a gross income of $51,000, and you’re eligible to take a deduction for your IRA contribution of $4,000. Your AGI, when all deductions are taken, turns out to be $45,500. You then add the $4,000 back to find your MAGI of $49,500. Because your MAGI is less than the ceiling for deducting your full IRA contribution for your filing status, which is $50,000 if you are single, you can take the full deduction.
A momentum investor focuses on stocks that are rising in value on increasing daily volume, and avoids stocks that are falling in price or that are perceived to be undervalued. The logic is that when a pattern of growth has been established, it will continue to gain momentum and the growth will continue. Momentum investing is essentially the opposite of contrarian investing.
A country’s central bank is responsible for its monetary policy. In the United States, for example, the Federal Reserve aims to keep the economy growing but not allow it to become overheated. In a sluggish economy, the Fed may lower the short-term interest rate to loosen credit and allow more cash to circulate in an attempt to stimulate expansion. Or, if it fears the economy is growing too quickly, it may tighten credit by raising the short-term interest rate to reduce the money supply, in an attempt to rein in potential inflation.In pursuit of its monetary policy, the Fed can also increase or decrease the money supply by buying or selling government securities. To avoid a potential recession, for example, the Fed might increase its purchases of US Treasury notes and bonds from banks and brokerage firms, providing them with more money to lend.
A government’s monetary reserve includes the foreign currency and precious metals that its central bank holds. That reserve enables the government to influence foreign exchange rates and to manage its transactions in the international marketplace. For example, a country with a large reserve of US dollars is in a position to make significant investments in US markets.
A money factor, also called a lease factor, is the finance charge you pay on an automobile lease. Unlike interest rates, which are expressed as a percentage of the amount borrowed, the money factor is usually stated as a decimal.You can calculate the actual interest rate you’re paying by multiplying the decimal by 24. So, for example, if you’re quoted a money factor of 0.00297, the rate you’re paying is 7.13% (0.00297 x 24 = 0.07128). You may find that the money factor is non-negotiable.
Registered money managers are paid professionals who are responsible for handling the securities portfolios they oversee in the best interest of the institutions or individuals for whom they work. That obligation is known as fiduciary responsibility.The specific decisions an individual money manager makes vary, depending on the portfolio in question. For example, pension funds, mutual funds, and insurance companies have money managers, as do endowments, managed accounts, and hedge funds. The portfolio that the manager constructs and the amount and timing of the trading he or she authorizes are directly linked to the portfolio’s investment objective and risk profile.
The money market isn't a place. It's the continual buying and selling of short-term liquid investments.Those investments include Treasury bills, certificates of deposit (CDs), commercial paper, and other debt issued by corporations and governments. These investments are also known as money market instruments.
These bank savings accounts normally pay interest at rates comparable to those offered by money market mutual funds or money market separate accounts offered under a variable annuity contract. One appeal of money market accounts is that they have the added safety of Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) protection, up to a limit of $100,000 per depositor. One drawback may be that some banks reduce the interest they pay or impose fees if your balance falls below a specific amount.Money market accounts may offer check writing and cash transfer privileges, although there are usually limits on the number of withdrawals or transfers you can make each month.
Money market mutual funds invest in stable, short-term debt securities, such as commercial paper, Treasury bills, and certificates of deposit (CDs), and other short-term instruments. The fund’s management tries to maintain the value of each share in the fund at $1. Unlike bank money market accounts, money market mutual funds are not insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). However, since they're considered securities at most brokerage firms, they may be insured by the Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC) against the bankruptcy of the firm. In addition, some funds offer private insurance comparable to FDIC coverage. Tax-free money market funds invest in short-term municipal bonds and other tax-exempt short-term debt. No federal income tax is due on income distributions from these funds, and in some cases no state income tax.While taxable funds may offer a slightly higher yield than tax-free funds, you pay income tax on all earnings distributions. Many money market funds offer check-writing privileges, which do not trigger capital gains or losses, as writing a check against the value of a stock or bond fund would.
A money order entitles the person named as payee on the order to receive the specific amount of cash shown on the order. You can use money orders in place of checks if you don’t have a checking account or if the payee requires a guaranteed form of payment. You can purchase money orders at banks, post office branches, credit unions, and other financial institutions. You can use money orders to send money internationally as well as within the United States. The United States Postal Service (USPS) has agreements with 30 countries that allow recipients to cash USPS money orders in post offices in those countries.Sellers sometimes impose a limit on the size of the money orders they sell, and they typically charge a fee for each order. However, those fees are less than for guaranteed bank checks. One drawback of a money order is that you have no proof that payment was received.
A money purchase plan is a defined contribution retirement plan that requires the employer to contribute a fixed percentage of each employee's salary every year the plan is in effect.The contributions must be made regardless of how well the company does in a given year. In contrast, in profit-sharing plans, the employer's contribution is more flexible because it is based on annual profits.However, some small-company employers or self-employed people create a paired plan that combines money purchase with profit sharing. Paired plans require them to add at least a minimum percentage of each employee's salary to the plan each year.
The money supply is the total amount of liquid or near-liquid assets in the economy. The Federal Reserve, or the Fed, manages the money supply, trying to prevent either recession or serious inflation by changing the amount of money in circulation. The Fed increases the money supply by buying government bonds in the open market, and decreases the supply by selling these securities.In addition, the Fed can adjust the reserves that banks must maintain, and increase or decrease the rate at which banks can borrow money. This fluctuation in rates gets passed along to consumers and investors as changes in short-term interest rates.The money supply is grouped into four classes of assets, called money aggregates. The narrowest, called M1, includes currency and checking deposits. M2 includes M1, plus assets in money market accounts and small time deposits. M3, also called broad money, includes M2, plus assets in large time deposits, eurodollars, and institution-only money market funds. The biggest group, L, includes M3, plus assets such as private holdings of US savings bonds, short-term US Treasury bills, and commercial paper.
A Monte Carlo simulation can be used to analyze the return that an investment portfolio is capable of producing. It generates thousands of probable investment performance outcomes, called scenarios, that might occur in the future. The simulation incorporates economic data such as a range of potential interest rates, inflation rates, tax rates, and so on. The data is combined in random order to account for the uncertainty and performance variation that's always present in financial markets. Financial analysts may employ Monte Carlo simulations to project the probability of your retirement account investments producing the return you need to meet your long-term goals.
Moody's is a financial services company best known for rating investments. Moody's rates bonds, common stock, commercial paper, municipal short-term bonds, preferred stocks, and annuity contracts. Its bond rating system, which assigns a grade from Aaa through C3 based on the financial condition of the issuer, has become a world standard.
These indexes are computed by the investment firm Morgan Stanley's Capital International group (MSCI).They track stocks traded in international stock markets, and are considered the benchmarks for international stock investments and mutual fund portfolios. The strong performance of the Europe and Australasia Far East Equity Index (EAFE) between 1982 and 1996 is often credited with generating increased US interest in investing overseas. The index was considered especially strong compared to the well-known Standard & Poor's 500-stock Index (S&P 500).
Morningstar, Inc., offers a broad range of investment information, research, and analysis online, in software products, and in print. For example, the company rates open- and closed-end mutual funds and variable annuities, as well as other investment products, using a system of one to five stars, with five being the highest rating.The Morningstar system is a risk-adjusted rating that brings performance, or return, and risk together into one evaluation. In addition, Morningstar produces analytical reports on the funds and variable annuities it rates, as well as on stocks sold in US and international markets.
A mortgage, or more precisely a mortgage loan, is a long-term loan used to finance the purchase of real estate. As the borrower, or mortgager, you repay the lender, or mortgagee, the loan principal plus interest, gradually building your equity in the property. The interest may be calculated at either a fixed or variable rate, and the term of the loan is typically between 10 and 30 years.While the mortgage is in force, you have the use of the property, but not the title to it. When the loan is repaid in full, the property is yours. But if you default, or fail to repay the loan, the mortgagee may exercise its lien on the property and take possession of it.
Mortgage-backed securities are created when the sponsor buys up mortgages from lenders, pools them, and packages them for sale to the public, a process known as securitization. The securities are available through publicly held corporations such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac or other financial institutions. Some of the securities are guaranteed by the Government National Mortgage Association, or Ginnie Mae.The money raised by selling the bonds is used to buy additional mortgages, making more money available to lend. The most common mortgage-backed securities, also known as pass-through securities, are self-amortizing, and pay interest and repay principal over the term of the security. Mortgage-backed securities known as Collateralized Mortgage Obligations (CMOs) or Real Estate Mortgages Investment Conduits (REMIC) are structured differently. While a CMO or REMIC pays interest on a regular basis, the principal payments are structured in what are known as tranches and mature in sequence. The principal is repaid to bondholders in the order in which the tranches are stacked, so the holders of the shortest-term tranche are paid principal first, the next shortest second, and so on. You can buy individual mortgage-backed securities or select mutual funds, such as Ginnie Mae funds, that invest in mortgage-backed securities.
A moving average of securities prices is an average that is recomputed regularly by adding the most recent price and dropping the oldest one. For example, if you looked at a 365-day moving average on the morning of June 30, the most recent price would be for June 29, and the oldest one would be for June 30 of the previous year. The next day, the most recent price would be for June 30, and the oldest one for the previous July 1. Investors may use the moving average of an individual security over a shorter period, such as 5, 10, or 30 days, to determine a good time to buy or sell that security. For example, you might decide that a stock that is trading above its 10-day moving average is a good buy or that it’s time to sell when a stock is trading below its 10-day moving average. The longer the time span, the less volatile the average will be.
A stock's multiple is its price-to-earnings ratio (P/E). It's figured by dividing the market price of the stock by its earnings.The earnings could be the actual earnings for the past four quarters, called a trailing P/E. Or, they might be the actual figures for the past two quarters plus an analyst's projection for the next two, called a forward P/E.Investors use the multiple as a way to assess whether the price they are paying for the stock is justified by its earnings potential. The higher the multiple they are willing to accept, the higher their expectations for the stock. However, some investors reject stocks with higher multiples, it's almost impossible for the stock to meet the market's expectations.
Municipal bonds are debt securities issued by state or local governments or their agencies to finance general governmental activities or special projects. For example, a state may float a bond to fund the construction of highways or college dormitories.The interest a muni pays is usually exempt from federal income taxes, and is also exempt from state and local income taxes if you live in the state where it was issued. However, any capital gains you realize from selling a muni are taxable, and some muni interest may be vulnerable to the alternative minimum tax (AMT).Munis generally pay interest at a lower rate than similarly rated corporate bonds of the same term. However, they appeal to investors in the highest tax brackets, who may benefit most from the tax-exempt income.
Municipal bond mutual funds invest in municipal bonds. Earnings from these funds are always free of federal income tax for all shareholders in the fund.In addition, some mutual fund companies offer funds that invest exclusively in municipal bonds offered by a single state. One advantage of muni bond funds is that buyers can invest a much smaller amount of money than they would need to buy a municipal bond on their own. Another advantage of these funds is that they pay income monthly rather than semi-annually.
A mutual company is a privately held company owned by its policyholders, depositors, or other customers. A share of the profits is distributed as dividends, allocated in proportion to the amount of business each customer does with the company. Insurance companies, federal savings and loan associations, and savings banks are examples of mutual companies, although each type operates somewhat differently.
A mutual fund is a professionally managed investment product that sells shares to investors and pools the capital it raises to purchase investments. A fund typically buys a diversified portfolio of stock, bonds, and money market securities, or a combination of stock and bonds, depending on the investment objectives of the fund. Mutual funds may also hold other investments, such as derivatives.A fund that makes a continuous offering of its shares to the public and will buy any shares an investor wishes to redeem, or sell back, is known as an open-end fund. An open-end fund trades at net asset value (NAV). The NAV is the value of the fund’s portfolio plus money waiting to be invested, minus operating expenses, divided by the number of outstanding shares.Load funds — those that charge upfront or back-end sales fees — are sold through brokers or financial advisers. No-load funds are sold directly to investors by the investment company offering the fund. These funds, which don't charge sales fees, may use 12b-1 fees to pass on the cost of providing shareholder services. All mutual funds charge management fees, though at different rates, and they may also levy other fees and charges, which are reported as the fund’s expense ratio. These costs plus the trading costs, which aren’t included in the expense ratio, reduce the return you realize from investing in the fund.A fund that sells its shares to the public only until sales reach a predetermined level is known as a closed-end fund. The shares of a closed end fund trade in the market place the way common stock does.